Monday, December 23, 2013

23 December 2013

Hey everybody! Kieren had her birthday and Christmas is coming up so it was a big week. I really enjoyed this letter because you could see how happy she is. Everybody if you missed her birthday it was the 21st and I know she would love a shout out from all her dear family and friends. Much love to all this special season!

Dearest Family and Friends,

I hope you are all ready for Christmas because it is basically here!

This week-Happy Birthday to me!!!! My Birthday here on the mission was fantastic! In the morning I got a call from Sister Castro (mission president´s wife) wishing me a happy birthday from her and the family. My companion was super nice and remembered and helped make it a special day. For part of companion study we watched some of the documentary of President Monson´s life. He is truly an inspiring man and amazing example.  Iam so glad to have the guidance of a living prophet and to learn from his example. After a day of normal work, including making contacts in Praza Tamandaré with Felipe (a 10 year old boy from the church who dressed up like Santa and was super adorable in giving out pass along cards and candy) we went to the Sister´s apartment in Cidade Nova and had a surprise pizza/cake party! We also had a fantastic lunch with Rosane (a sister in our ward) and I loved my presents from the family! At church yesterday a bunch of people wished me happy birthday and I got calls from some of the other missionaries in our zone. I definitely felt special and remembered and it was a super great day :)

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Yesterday we had Encontro de Corais where all the ward choirs meet and have a grand presentation. The chapel was overflowing with people! It was great to see so much support for the activity. But the best part of the night was probably when Miguel Janes and Caroenne walked in. Get ready for a long back story.....
So. last transfer Gisela and João Arthur (remember, the guy in a wheelchair -see picture above) were having us over for lunch. We asked them if they knew of anyone we could teach or who needed a visit and João Arthur mentioned Miguel Janes, a less active member. We noted his name, but he did not have an address, just a phone number. We thanked them, said goodbye, and went on with our day. The next time we saw João Arthur he mentioned Miguel again but we hadn´t visited him. Fast forward two or three weeks and I have a new companion, Sister Hodnik. During a visit with our ward mission leader, Elizandro Castro, he also mentioned Miguel and pointed out where he lived. By then I was like, we definitely have to go there. We went, but he wasnt home.  We decided to start using the ward directory more and one day I was just looking through the directory and saw Miguel´s name and also Caroenne, who is his daughter, who we found out was also a member. So yesterday we went there and they let us in and they were super nice and had some pretty hilarious relatives visiting including twin aunts who aren´t afraid to speak their mind. One aunt, Nilza, told us she thought we were older than 21 and 22 because we were using old lady clothes hahaha. But anyway, we had a great conversation and it was after church was over, but we invited them to the choir thingie. Normally people don´t actually come to things, but the first surprise was when they said they would come and the second was when about 30 minutes in, they both actually came!!! We were so happy to see them, especially after so many people hadn´t shown up to church that we were expecting. So basically we are going to work with them and help them come back to activity. Miguel has a lot of questions and Caroenne has a lot of things she doesn´t want to leave behind just yet, but they are both such kindhearted people and we are excited to work with them. They talked to a lot of the members who were at the choir peformance and it looks like they have a lot of friendships in the church that will help them feel welcomed.
Chrismas is in two days!!!! Woohooo!!!! I have super cute tree that my family sent in the apartment and Priscila(investigator) and Jonathan(member) showed us that they already have presents under their tree for us (we are having Christmas dinner with them :D)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all! Remember Christ and why he was born. We celebrate his birth not just because he was born on this earth, but because of what he did his entire life and especially how he overcame death. He knows exactly how to help us through all of our trials and loves to rejoice with us when we are happy :D
Isaiah 41:13

Love you all!

Sister Smith

Monday, December 16, 2013

16 December 2013

A nice long letter from Kieren ............a great Christmas Present to be able to read it!

Dearest Friends and Family,

So this week was awesomely crazy!

New companion is Sister Hodnik. She is from São Paulo and is super nice and fun! Since I stayed in the area Jardim do Sol and my companion left, I basically felt super stressed about showing her the area, making sure I didn´t forget anyone, etc etc. I still feel a lot of reponsibility in remembering all the people and stuff, but I know that the Lord will help me, and this week I had an experience that helped reinforce that. My first week in the field, we were knocked on a door (actually clapped in front of the gate, that´s how it is done here) and a nice elderly lady named Maria let us in and we taught a lesson, etc. Basically I was still super new and overwhelmed and didn´t know anything that was going on. 5 weeks later, we passed her on the street and I didn´t recognize her and my companion was like -remember that was Maria, etc etc. I was super stressed because I didn´t get a good look at her and everything and out of the thousands of people we talk to I had no idea how I was going to remember everyone. However, the next week, after my companion got transferred, we were walking in the street and I saw a lady walking our way and I looked at her and it was so clear in my mind that it was Maria, and I remembered my experience meeting her and we went over and talked to her and it was just great because I knew in that moment that the Lord would help me remember the names, faces, and needs of all the people that we need to talk to and teach because He knows every one of his children by name.

Yesterday was super crazy awesome. So we had great classes (Relief Society is first, then Sunday School then Sacrament Meeting) and I was just enjoying church and not suspecting anything when a counselor in the bishopric came up to me and had the "you are going to give a talk" face on. It was a huge surprise because I just gave a talk a few weeks ago and usually they tell us before any of the meetings start, not right before Sacrament Meeting. I had already used my prepared outline in this ward, so I was kind of stressed but I was like "sure sounds good." So in between playing the hymns for sacrament meeting I frantically prepared an outline, praying to be able to speak well and say something intelligible. When I went up to speak, it was amazing! It was definitely not perfect, but the words kind of just flowed out and the best part was that I used a bunch of scriptures that I had not planned to use and flipped right to them, like my scriptures were just opening themselves. I feel really blessed to have received help from Heavenly Father through the Spirit because that is the only way I could have given the talk and timed it so well. Also, the only reason I could access those scriptures was because I had memorized them in seminary. When we treasure up the words of Christ and the scriptures, they truly can come to our minds in times of need, but only if we have sudied them before. 

Also yesterday, we decided to visit a less active member, Gabriela. She is super nice and welcoming, but when we walked in, we realized that they were having an engagement party. We were like "oh, we can come back at a different time" but she insisted we stay. So it was kind of super awkward. She took us to the back of the house where they were preparing food and left us with a bunch of her relatives because she had to prepare some things. So there we were, sitting in this back room with a bunch of very nice ladies who were smoking and talked a million miles per hour. It was quite an adventure. And then, someone from the front of the house called everyone to come listen to "a message." They sounded very excited but I had no idea what kind of message it was going to be. In our area there are a bunch of Jehovah´s Witensses so I was sure it was them and I thought to myself "man this is going to be fun." But it wasn´t them, it was a car with a loudspeaker attached that started to play a message that went somehting like this- "prepare your hearts to be touched etc etc " And at this point I was sure it was either some evangelical church or the universal church or something, but it actually turned out to be none of these. It was just a message for the engaged couple wishing them happiness and felicity in their marriage and lives. It was quite strange and interesting and I hope the happy couple loved it. The visit overall was quite good though. We talked to Gabriela and some of her concerns surfaced about why she is not going to church and struggles she is having. She also gave us cake and chocolates which were homemade and amazingly delicious. Many blessings.

So this week we weren´t having much success finding people at home and teaching a bunch, but we were doing everything we should, like waking up on time, studying, etc. Our own efforts weren´t amounting to much, but the Lord truly gave us a miracle. We were walking to an appointment when a woman called out to us from her house. Her name is Tânea and she lives literally right next to the church. She just moved there, but says she probably wont be staying for much longer. However, she told us that she is feeling lonely and looking for a church and wondering if we could help her. Obviously, we were elated. We invited her to church and said we would pass by on Sunday. We did and she was right ready to go which is super rare! She said she wasn´t sure if we would come and decided if we didn´t she would go to that church right by her house (ours) so basically the Lord is directing her to the true church because she is earnestly searching for what is right. We told her of course we are here and that we would definitely not forget to pass by. She went to all the meetings and loved them! She had been previously attending various churches, mostly Universal, and said that she had been feeling really really confused. She is going through some tough times and she said that she felt that maybe it was because she didn´t pay enough tithing (in the Universal church they pass around a sack or tray asking for offerings of the most valuable thing you have, the most money you can offer, etc. Some people turn in cellphones, the keys to their cars, even their houses at times). I said of course it was not that and explained to her how tithing works, how it is all in private and the money doesn´t go to the preacher/pastor but directly to building chapels, temples, helping the needy, etc and that at the end of the year you receive a record. She said that made so much more sense and that she really liked that. She said multiple times that here everything was so much more clear and that it made perfect sense and that she felt really good. She is someone that was definitely prepared by the Lord. She is probably going to move to Florianopolis on Friday, but we are going to pass by today and make sure she knows how to find the church there, etc. It was a marvelous blessing to meet her and a testimony that the Lord will place people in our path if we are doing what is right. 

Another miracle this week was when we had a lunch appointment in Bolaxa, which is one of the areas we have to take a bus to get to. Our area is HUGE. It has 9 bairros, or mini-town/city neighborhood places. Not sure how to describe it. Consequently, we have to take the bus a lot. Also consequently, we can´t visit every area every week and there are some areas I haven´t even visited yet, usually ones without members or investigators. So basically I was stressed because we had only gone there once and I wasn´t sure how to get there and my companion had never been there so we were kind of going off of faith. We got some vague directions from Shélem´s mom (we were going to the house of Shélem (member) and Claudio (investigator)), however after we descended the ônibus, we asked a man how to get to Rua 129 and he said it didn´t exist. So we said thanks and started walking, not sure how everything was going to work out. As we went along the road, we heard  a man call out "Irmãs!" We turned and it was Claudio! He was working (he is a bricklayer) at a house nearby. He gave us clear directions how to get to his house (it was pretty close) and said he would join us in a few minutes. The Lord truly is watching out for us every second of the day. Lunch was great and we were able to teach Claudio a bit more. He is very kind and giving and is going to make a wonderful member of the church. He sometimes doesn´t like to come to church because he doesn´t read well and is embarrassed, but we are trying to help him overcome that.

Also this week, we had Natal Branco (White Cristmas) where some wards in our stake realized some baptisms and the missionaries sand in a choir (I played the piano :D) It was a lovely evening. This week we have a zone conference in Pelótas and we get to have lunch with President Castro! I´m excited. 

I am getting burnt to a crisp even though I have SPF 50 sunscreen. Yay tanlines!

I have been enjoying the scriptures that my family sent and reading them as part of my personal study. Thanks to everyone that sent cards and mail. I am always super excited and happy to read them. Thanks for all the updates on everyone. Merry Christmas season! It is truly the most wonderful time of the year when we take time to focus on the reason we celebrate Christmas- the birth of the greatest life that ever walked this planet. He truly fulfilled His mission perfectly and understands all of our struggles and difficulties. (Alma 7:11-13 Isaiah 53:3-5)

Love you all <3

Sister Smith

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Kieren is doing great!  She received the Christmas Birthday package we sent.  If any of you want to wish her a Happy Birthday it is the 21st of Dec.  She will be 21 so it is her GOLDEN Birthday!

Thanks to all the support you are all giving to her.  She is so happy!

Dearest Family and Friends,

First Transfer has arrived! I will stay in Jardim do Sol but I will be receiving a new companion tomorrow, about whom I will write next week. 

A great experience we had this week was when we changed our plans and went to go visit a less active member, Nilsa. We talked to her for a while, and she said she felt bad about drinking coffee and knew that she should be going to church and stuff, and Sister Mileib asked her if it was just coffee that was making her so sad, and she said no, and started telling us about some challenges she is having. Her son won´t talk to her or let her see her grandkids and her boyfriend said he was going to leave her in January. She said she is really afraid to be alone. We cried with her and sang some hymns. We encouraged her to start getting her life in order because that will truly bring happiness and help with a lot of the issues she is having. We will be working with her these upcoming weeks to help her make changes and come back to the fold. Elder Uchtdorf´s talk from the last conference has been very helpful in learning how to relate to and help those who have for one reason or another left the church. I would encourage everyone to re-read it. 

Yesterday we had churrasco (barbecued meat on spear-like skewers) at two peoples houses. And at each house there are tons of types of meat and you have to eat a lot. Also there was a lot of fat on the meat, but some people consider that the best part.  I was looking around like "are they going to eat that part?" because we follow the host´s exapmple and all that. When they ate it, I was like "here we go, ready to gain some weight" It wasn´t too bad and aside from the fat, the meat was amazingly delicious! Also I don´t think I will be eating for another few days. 

The work is great. Lots of investigators with potential, but there is always some sort of barrier to overcome, like they have to get married, quit smoking, get parent´s permission, etc. Satan really works to make sure people don´t get to baptism, but we ork even harder and we have the Lord on our side, who is more powerful. He truly knows everything and we have to trust in His timing (see Isaiah 55:8-9)

Love you all!

Sister Smith 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

2 Dec 2013 - More Pictures!

Kieren has been busy and happy in Brazil. Enjoy her letter from this week and at the end I have attached pictures from her mission so far.

Hello Dearest Friends and Family!!!

This week was awesome!! The biggest news of the week is that Lucas got baptized on Saturday!! He got confirmed yesterday in church by André, who has only been a member for about a year, but he gave an amazing blessing full of promises about how Lucas will be a great leader in the church and have a lot of opportunities as a result of the gospel. It was amazing to see the change in him this week. He is a lot more respectful to his leaders and is a lot happier and has more light in his life. One key moment this week was when we saw him on the street and reminded him about meeting him at the church at 7. He was with some of his friends and they were giving him a hard time. He told us that he didn´t want to meet with us that day and kind of blew us off. Later, we decided to call him and prayed about what we could do and say. We called him and asked him to come and that it was important, and said that he didn´t have to come in, just to meet us at the gate. He conceded and we met him and he decided to come in. We told him that we would be quick so he could get back to his friends, but he told us that he decided to leave them and that he decided to stay here (there was a young men´s activity at the church at that time). He apologized for the way he treated us and he had a great time at the activity. There was a visible change from the Lucas we met on the street to the Lucas at the activity. It reminded me of the scripture that reminds us to "Stand in holy places, and be not moved." Truly if we do this, it will bless us and there will be a tangible difference in our lives. Not only us, but others will be able to see that difference and we will be able to be an examle to them. 

More good news- I dreamed in portuguese! I was on the street and there was a lady asking me directions to the milk festival. I told her to continue until the end of the road and turn right. I had been studying directions this week, so I am sure that is why I had that dream. 

Food adventure of the week- we were having lunch at a member´s home in St. Anges and the Irmã brough out this platter with a giant black fish on it. it was about the size of a computer keyboard (the giant old ones, not the laptop ones) and was staring at us with its beady little eye and sharp teeth. It tasted pretty good though. 

Remember to be happy this week! True happiness comes as a result of living the gospel. Mosiah 2:41. Love you all!

Sister Smith