Tuesday, November 25, 2014

25 November 2014

ARGH!! It happened again. Messed up the date for Thanksgiving. We celebrated a week early, which is better than forgetting (last year) and found out yesterday that Thanksgiving is coming up, not passed. This week I will be traveling to Porto Alegre (woot! Love the city) on Thanksgiving for a meeting so that will be a joyous celebration. 

So...Thanksgiving was (will be?) good. This week after district meeting in Arroio Grande (the cutest and flattest (in all respects) little city in existence. Google Maps it) we made a feast. By feast I mean a pot of noodles and Calabresa the size of two of those baby bathtub basin things. Except something went wrong with the noodles and it turned out more like a playdough with bits of sausage and green pepper. There were leftovers. BUT! We counted our blessings during the meal. I was grateful for you guys. And music. 

Irmão Juan is the Quorum President and told us he has a great referall for us- a lady that cuts his hair. So we marked to go with him to his haircut haha. Celí cuts hair in her house so we went one night and as Juan and his son, Bryan, are getting hair cuts, we chat about the gospel. It was great because Juan just starts talking to Celí about the Plan of Salvation and how he brought us to meet her to make a difference in her life. It´s amazing how spiritually sensitive people are here. And so open, especially when someone they know and trust presents them with the gospel. Celí said she would love to learn more and come to church, but she would really like her husband Joaquim to participate, who is pretty closed to religion. As he passed by the door, we called him to come sit with us. He said no thanks, and Celí made a face like "I knew it. There is just no way." But for some reason Joaquim stayed at the door. We  engaged him in the conversation and he got kind of excited and then we were like, come! Sit in this nice white plastic chair! And he sat. We chatted for a while and after he left, Celí said that was a miracle because lately he has been turning his back whenever anything about religion is mentioned. She was super happy, as were we. We will be visiting them on Wednesday :)

So this week we have been walking quite a bit, because being new in the area, when we don´t have referalls or old investigators from the area book to visit, we knock on doors. But yesterday we had a little miracle! After a wonderful meeting with the ward missionaries where we trained the first discussion with them, an irmão said that he had a referall. Him, his wife and daugher, and we loaded into his car. When the referall couldn´t attend, he didn´t just leave us on the side of the road, he said "where to next, sisters?" So we shared our next plan. She wasn´t home, but the irmão said, "where to next, sisters?" So were were like whoa! First time ever! Proselyting by car. I´m digging it. So we finally found a family home- an irmã, Marcela, who hasn´t been going for a while, and her mom, Ilma, and son, David, who aren´t members. They are so awesome! Marcela said she was having a hard time getting David (8 years old) motivated for church. We kept on chatting and soon David entered. While everyone were talking, I summoned David over. I asked him, whispering as if it were a grand secret, "Hey, do you wan´t to come to church next Sunday?" After thinking, he nodded yes. I said "Go ask your mom if she will take you" And he went and whispered in her ear and she said "Yes! Of course!" and became so happy and planted a giant kiss on his cheek.  Sometimes we just have to make people feel special and make them feel like they have a part in the decision. I can see them being such a happy family at church. I´m excited.

I was reading about the Holy Ghost and have been trying to deepen my understanding. If you have any good articles about Him, I would love to give them a read. 

Remember to be grateful! The thing I am most grateful for is that my loving Father in Heaven sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to atone and die for me (John 3:16-17) so that I can be happy and clean and know what I am doing here and where I am going. He is my Savior and King and I received this testimony through the Holy Ghost, our friend and Comforter (John 14:26)


Sister Smith

Monday, November 17, 2014

17 November 2014

Wow. So I kind of feel like I was on the first week of my mission again because everything was new. So I told you all I was getting transferred to Pelótas, which I knew, but what I didn´t say (because I didn´t find out until I was practically going there) was that I would be opening an area. I don´t know how to say that in missionary english- basically there is a ward here in Pelótas where it has been elders basically since the beginning of time and last week President Castro took them out and decided to put in Sisters (where we come into the story). So. My area is named Gotuzzo. Which is the best kept secret of the mission. No one has ever heard of this area but secretly it is the BEST AREA IN THE WHOLE MISSION! In my opinion. Let me share some examples:

We get here late Tuesday night after traveling the whole day. A brigade of strong brothers from the ward awaits us at the bus station and takes our suitcases as we ride with the stake president and his wife to our new house. They carry up all our suitcases. I don´t even have to sweat. 

Wednesday morning we have district meeting and afterward aren´t sure if we have lunch. We start heading home when we get a text that says "I need to talk to you. Call me." I call. On the other end of the line is Tia Lú, a sister in the ward that says she has lunch ready for us and will wait at the bus stop so we know where to get off. After lunch she takes us to the house of our Ward Mission Leader, Irmão Jorge. He is super excited to get working and we make plans. That night, he and his wife drive us to the house of Gilsiane and Alexandre, a couple that started investigating the church about 7 years ago who Jorge thinks is ready to be invited to baptism. Gilsiane recently, after practiacally her whole life of smoking, succeeded in quitting. They are super receptive and we had a very beautiful and spiritual lesson. 

The ward was really excited to have sisters. We are their missionary princesses. We spoke on Sunday and after us spoke the Stake President. I spoke about how I love music and played in an orchestra and how in an orchestra everyone plays an importants role and each has a capacity to contribute, but not everone plays the same role. I read Ephesians 4:11-14 about our different callings and various scriptures from the gospels about Christ inviting us to follow him, like when in Matthew he invites him to leave his work (he is working at his tax desk I think) and follow him. And he follows without delay. Even though we are all different, we are following the same person. He is the conductor of the symphony and when we follow him exactly, each person´s different contribution will synchronize and become part of the beautiful symphony that Christ has in mind for us. 

Yesterday night we had a huge stake mission meeting (all the missionaries, bishops, WMLs and High Counselor over missionary work). It was legendarily inspiring. Everyone is so pumped up to do missionary work. The high counselor, Irmão Nico, is from our ward and he is a recent return missionary from Manaus and is super enthusiastic. One thing he did that was kind of cool was pass the numbers from the last trimester for us to see from all the wards/branches and then made huge circles around the numbers that were high/ideal from all the wards. For example, one of the wards had a lot of convert baptisms, and another ward had a really high retention percentage, and another ward had great success in ordaining the masculine converts, etc. The great thing was,  all the wards had different strengths. Irmão Nico invited each ward representative individually up to the front to teach the rest of the wards how they were able to have success in that strong point, and each was able to see how to turn a weak point strong through the example of others and each was able to have hope in their progress, focusing on what they had done well. 

EVERYONE gives us referrals. We have not walked out of a members house yet without them giving us someone to visit. If that is not the Lord pouring out blessings, I am not a missionary princess.

Some other adventures in opening an area: The apartment was uninhabitable, to be generous. I found a dried butterfly though. That was a bright moment.

I am becoming really really good at reading maps. I was already good but now I´m like the cake boss of maps. The map is my new best friend apart from real people.

My mouth is dry from talking to SO MANY PEOPLE! But here in the interior (like suburbs kind of but not exactly) people are quite receptive. 

The first or second day here I saw a sheep on a leash. Since then there have been various sightings of horses, cows, chickens, dogs, and cocroaches, both domestic and wild (the cocroaches are all wild, except Felix, one the size of my upper thumb joint that we found behind the sink today and domesticated but ultimately decided to spray and throw out) But what made me smile the most was the sheep. I thought it was a cute pet. Up until the stake president called the morning we were to have lunch at his house and asked one simple question "Do you eat lamb?" "Yes......" We replied "Okay, thanks. Bye"
You will not be surprised to hear what we had for lunch. Roasted lamb, Churrasco style. Don´t worry, this was not the same lamb that I saw the other day because this lamb was from Pinheiro Machado, a neighboring town, said President Julian. 

So. This is Pelótas. I admit I wasn´t 100% enthusiastic about coming here but even after this little time, I can already see why I came. The Lord is always so much smarter than us. It´s embarrassing some times. It always brings me back to yet another scripture mastery scripture, Isaiah 55:8-9. 

Love you guys. 

Sister Smith

Friday, November 14, 2014

10 November 2014

So it seems like just yesterday that I got transferred here, but.....I´m leaving :( :( 
I will miss good old Glória (used to be Alameda) I included some reminiscent photos. 

I don´t think I have ever been so sad to leave a people. I keep thinking of all the people I am leaving behind- a recent convert, a new investigator, a dear member, my comp and dear friend Sister Gurrieri.  I will be going to Pelótas, way far away , close to where I started my mission. I know it will be great and I will love it. 

This week was full of beautiful moments. We have been helping Mary, a recent convert of almost a year (who is starting to prepare to go to the temple!!!!!), quite a bit with some difficulties she was having, and she was so grateful, that when she went to the market, she bought a giant bag of biscoitos (little cracker cookies) for us. We asked her to put just a few in a little containter for us because she needs the food more than we do, but we couldn´t turn down such genuine generosity and love. She is in two of the photos I included. 

Yesterday we had an investigator that said they would go to church, but she lived REALLY far away and didn´t know how to get to the church, so we had to arrange a ride, which is a super hard thing here because very few ward members here have cars. But someone said that a young couple in the ward that lives our apartment complex has a car. It was Saturdaywhen the investigator said they could go, so we had very little time to get everything together. We called the couple using the interphone at doorman´s office saturday night, and they said sure! they could go with us. Sunday morning, right on time, we walked out of the apartment and Giselle, the wife, was already in the car waiting. It turns out she is the one that has the driver´s licence, but she has only had it for a year. We could tell that se was SUPER nervous and eventually she confessed that she had only driven with her husband in the car. It was touching to see how willing she was to go way out of her comfort zone to help someone she doesn´t even know, who didn´t even end up going to church, but she didn´t complain, just smiled and served. 

I learned something interesting in gospel principles class yesterday. We were talking about prayer and how the Lord´s prayer, found in Matthew 6:9-13 is given as a pattern of prayer, but that we do not repeat prayers, but they are like conversations with God. However, there are prayers that are the same, like the sacramental prayer. Why? It is a contract with God. The terms of the contract do not change with time, location, or circumstance. That is why the sacramental prayers, baptismal prayer, and other written words used repeatedly are the same always. Because God created the contract and offers the same to all of His children. Personal prayers, however, allow us to align our will with God´s, taking into consideration all of the specific and individual circumstances of our lives. 
Pray more and pray harder. 


Sister Smith