Sunday, September 20, 2015

There must be opposition in all things

Sept 14, 2015 
Hello to my amazing family,

Before you all look at the subject and think that I just had the worst week ever I want you all to know this week I have seen some of the most amazing miracles and had some of the most amazing experiences. I have truly experienced what it means to love this work and never want to leave this beautiful country. But as we all know there must needs be opposition in all things, so we have seen some pretty hard challenges as well. I think the best way to start would be to just start from the beginning.

Baby squid for dinner, yumbo!
This week I heard a song from EFY this year called "I can do all things". This has become our theme song thought the week. It has been such a good reminder that with our savior we can truly do all. He never calls us to do that which we cannot. He will be there every step of the way helping us keep doing.

Okay I want to tell you about C. She was a reference from the office that I have actually never met. But I called her once and we had an amazing talk about the Book of Mormon. To my disappointment I realized that she was in the aps area and we had to pass her. Well a couple days ago I got a call from sweet C. She told me she had read the whole Book of Mormon and knew it was true and wanted to know the next step she needed to take. WHAT!? Haha I almost dropped the phone. We talked for a while about how she wanted to come to church but the bus system doesn't run Sundays to her pueblo and there is really no way for her to make it. I told her about the power of prayer and we both committed to pray so she could find a way to church. We ended that conversation by saying that she didn't know how it would happen but she knows that God has the power to do all things. What faith! At this point I was a little confused. And started asking if the other missionaries had contacted her. She said they had, so I tired to politely ask why she was calling me if she had other missionaries. She then started talking about how the other elders had given her a second Book of Mormon and how they were just too young to teach her anything;) at this point I realized that the phone had disguised the fact that I am only 19. I was laughing a little in the inside at this point because she was talking to perhaps the most inexperienced missionary in the mission. But she talked about how I had listened to her and how much  that had meant to her. We then got to talk a little bit about how God chooses to use young "boys" to preach his gospel and though the elders might seem young they had been called by a prophet of God. And the only way she could know the next step she needed to take would be to call the elders. She promised me she would and we ended the call with a prayer. Well about an hour later we got a call from the aps telling us how C needed a way to church asking us if we had any ideas because our recent convert G was in the same situation. It was so sweet to receive that conformation that C really did want to know the truth. Enough to call these boys just as old as her sons to find it.

This week in district meeting I gave my first talk. Woho! It could have gone better but I didn't die so yeah:) I talked about extending invitations. I had been reading earlier about Aaron teaching the father of king Lamoni and how his great king had so much desire to know the truth and become clean. But unless Aaron had told him what to do he would have never taken the next step. (Alma 22 15-18 ish). Our district leader also wanted us to focus on extending baptismal invitations and he went around asking all of us if we had any ideas how we could. During times like this I like to just sit back and listen to other missionaries with mor experience, and a lot of really great ideas were given, and then elder dean decided to call on me. And he only thing I could think of what ".... Well you just invite them" the room went silent and then everyone just laughed. Because we had all gotten so caught up in doing something so special for a baptismal invite that we forgot the most important thing is to literally just extend the invitation.

This week Hermana Gallegos and I finally hit our rhythm teaching together, I know it took us long enough;) but we finally got in sync and the spirit has been so strong it has been a joy to be a part of it. 

This week one of our members got sick so we dropped by her house to drop off some bread. ( we
Hot Chocolate & Churros - yah!
weren't really sure what sick people need... 
And the little bakeries all around the city make buying bread really fun) when we got there hoping to bring some comfort and strength we were surprised to find ourselves strengthened and comforted by this sweet woman. She bore such a strong testimony of the work we were doing. She talked about how the missionaries had saved her soul and her daughters by teaching her of Christ. She encouraged us to never get dismayed because there were more people just like her out there waiting to find the truth. What a beautiful reminder to us both. This work is so much bigger than anyone of us. What we are here to do is change lives for the rest of eternity. No matter the cost a prize like that is worth paying for. I have been so grateful for our wonderful members and the love they shower on the missionaries. Because he church is so new in Spain almost everyone here is a convert and treats us as if we were he missionaries who found them.

Wednesday morning Hermana Gallegos and I split ways. She went to the hospital for some more tests and I went to fuengirola to do residency. I met up with Hermana brown my amazing companion from the ccm. It was amazing to just sit and talk with her. Be completely real with each other about the things we were learning and the experiences we were having. I walked away from our conversation with so much animo I really cannot express how much I adore that woman! In Fuengirola we got our residency process started and got to hang out a little bit with the office elders. They all got a kick out of the fact that I got in trouble at the Canadian boarder. Saying that I was probably the only person in the history of ever to have issues there. It was a fun morning.

Alright there's no easy way to say this so I'll just do my best. Hermana Gallegos was at the hospital to get an ultrasound on her neck. They found a tumor there. She has to wait until Wednesday to find out the next couple steps. They know hey are going to do a biopsy to find out if it is cancerous or not, but you can only imagine the amount of stress and fear she has been feeling these last couple days. Made worse because she hasn't had the chance to talk to her mother yet. Her family isn't a part of the church, so I guess when president tried to call them it didn't go over well. She has also been in contact from some members form Utah who really want her to come home. She is pretty sure she wants to go home and has been really frustrated that she needs to wait. I don't blame her. Please keep her in your prayers.

The Lord being as amazing as he is provided us with a beautiful miracle soon after Hermana Gallegos received this news. We went in to teach a new investigator and just as we were getting started to teach. She sat down with her sister in law and said, we want to be baptized. When can we be. Haha! You can imagine the look on our faces, and how our brains scrambled trying to figure out if we heard them right. Marlene had come to church the week before and had been so impressed by the spirit there she new she wanted to join the church. She had received the lessons in Italy but now really wanted to be a member. Marlene and Elisa were both so excited to study together and learn. It was probably the cutest thing I have ever seen. I want to echo Hermana Eyring , we are only instruments in the Lord's hands. They were so prepared and thankfully the lord allowed us to teach them.

Our bishop and his wife are both in the medical field. I cannot even express what a comfort that has been to my companion these past couple days. They have just told her all about the processes comforting her and buoying her spirits. They had us over to their house for a night of churros and chocolate to keep our spirits up. Again and again the amazing members here have been giving us strength and keeping us going. M invited us over to her amazing huge beach house for mediodia, and cute Gl who I called on accident just laughed and invited us over saying how she has been trying to get the missionaries over for months now. The Lord is so good to us.

You can only imagine how preoccupied poor Hermana Gallegos has been these past couple days, on top of not feeling well she has all the stress of knowing she needs to have surgery whirling around her. As you can imagine having a new missionary as a companion probably was super annoying! I was constantly trying to keep her going out the door onto the next person, and I'm pretty sure I almost broke her. Well I'm convinced what happened next was a tender mercy of the Lord. I got sick. I tried to keep going ask long as I could but then this little cold ran the well known track down to my lungs. 

Now before you freak out its only the third day that I've been sick so hopefully it will clear up soon. We took it easy Saturday and  Sunday only doing half days. It's been kind of scary feeling this sickness creep into my lungs and has actually brought back a ton of memories of  Mom saying "stay off your back"  and Dad saying "that cough sounds pretty dry". But in doing my best to take care of myself. So me and Hermana Gallegos are quite a pair this week. But there must needs be opposition in all things.

Being sick on the mission is interesting. Because it forces you to think about yourself. It's not something I am a fan of and it is hard not to get down on yourself for being a bad missionary. But I know the Lord knows our hearts and we are going to do all we can. Wow this email is getting long! Sorry! I just want to finish by some things I learned by reading Jesus the Christ and Elder Holland's talk from this last general conference. I'm trying to learn more about the nature of Christ. And I am finding this yes, he is perfectly merciful and loving. But he never allowed the least degree of sin to be permitted. He was unbending in that. He loved the people, but did not tolerate the sins. I find that really interesting and want to do my best to always be deserving of our Savior's love and quick to repent when I am in the wrong. How amazing that our older brother has thrown out his arms to catch us all when we fall and save us from our own sins.

I love this work, I love Spain and I love all of you.
Much love, Hermana Smalley

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Crying like a Baby & Singing in the Rain

September 7, 2015
Hola familia,
Wow what a week we have had here. It was so crazy time literally flew by because we had so much going on.

First off, HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!!! You are absolutely amazing and I hope this day is as awesome as you are! And oh my goodness the newest addition to our family is the cutest thing big kisses to little Jeremy.

The month of September I decided I wanted to study faith. I want to focus this whole month on having more faith and developing what I have. If you can I want to invite you all to do it with me. In preach my gospel there is a personal evaluation type thing at the end of chapter 6 and then there is a section on faith. The hints I am learning and trying to apply are amazing. What I have learned so far
is that through faith we can literally do all things.

Everything God has called us to do is possible , we just need to trust enough to recognize that every task we have been given was put into our lives
for our own personal gain. I am going to keep studying and get back to you guys at then end of the month with the news on how it went:) I'd love to do it with you if you all have the time.

This week M, a member, took us all over the place to teach our investigators. She was amazing! She served her mission a while ago in the Canary Islands and is the perfect example on how to apply the mission to the rest of our lives. She does everything she can to serve the ward and invite people to come to the church. It is really such an example to me. 

After a lesson with one of our investigators I was feeling a little drained. And I found out the elders had planned a contacting activity and there were two sisters from the ward on their way to come meet us and go contacting. The natural man may have taken over a little and I was dreading it. I was thinking man, I'm going to have to put on a happy face and pretend to be all excited when in reality I'm dead tired. What a selfish state of mind I was in. To my surprise when those two cute sisters came to contact us I felt a rush of love for them. They had taken time out of their crazy lives to help us do the work of the lord. My excitement became real! I really do love doing this work and showing others how fun it really can be. It was like a completely different person took over and I had a blast with Angeles. I was again struck with how merciful is to me. Even when I get absorbed in myself he provides the opportunity for me to change and turn out.

We started Wednesday off right with some MMA fight moves for workout:) we always feel pretty cool after doing that. Then we met M and she drove us to this cute little pueblo called casabermejas. This is where our lovely G lives. It was a super beautiful car right and honestly reminded me a ton of water polo trips and all of our road trips as a family. Anyway we met with G and she told us she was not going to be able to come Sunday. We were so bummed out! Her baptism was scheduled for Sunday :/  She was so sad at she couldn't that she said "Hermanas can we just do it Friday. I don't want to wait another week". Hermana Gallegos and I just looked at each other and smiled. Of course we could do that. Planning a baptism in two days is kinda crazy but we would do anything for G! Anyway more about that later. 

Wednesday for mediodia we made pallea with Annie. I tried with all my might to learn how to make this amazing food, but she just moved so quickly with the spices and everything. But one day I will know:)  We bore testimony of repentance to her, she was really touched and is going to try it for herself. During that lesson I learned again just how important the spirit is in this work. I can't teach this gospel without it. There is no way.

Wednesday night president Anderson came to give Hermana Gallegos a blessing. It is always such a special experience to be with him. We also got the chance to invite him to our baptism!

Thursday was crazy! We woke up got ready and left to go to the hospital to get some blood work done for Hermana Gallegos. Being in the hospital made me feel right at home. It really didn't matter that everything was in Spanish. It was just like slipping back into some old shoes I knew exactly what was going on there. So I guess it's good I, going into the medical field or it would be a little weird how much I like hospitals. We also got to explore Malaga for ages looking for a locotorio (place to print things) we found out that by the end of the day we had been in 6 different areas of Malaga. It was quite the adventure! I've learned again and again so maybe someday I'll be able to apply it always, that the only way to really be happy is to just turn out. Worry about other people not myself. I got to practice it a lot that day as we were walking around. I also learned just how much I have come to depend on our study time! Oh my goodness I felt so vulnerable and exposed without it. 

This week Hermana Gallegos and I realized a dream we have both had. Here in Spain at night time everyone goes out to eat tapas and just sit and talk. As missionaries that really isn't included in our
purpose, unless, M invites you to teach over tapas! We went with her and met our investigator Mar and had a great lesson enjoying tapas and feeling very Spanish. The only thing I'll pass on next time are the shrimp. Here they don't cut the head or legs off, so they just kinda stare at you. M got a kick out of trying to teach me to eat them.

Then came the craziest day of all. Friday. We left Pizo at 8 to meet the elders and fill up the font. Then Hermana Gallegos and I stayed there and got everything ready including ourselves. Then G came and we taught her one last lesson and then she had her interview. While she was in her interview president Anderson and Hermana Anderson came! Oh and I forgot to mention, the baptism was at 11 and zone meeting was at 12. Poor G was worried no one would come because we changed the date so quickly, so we had Elder Johnson invite the whole zone! So we had a chapel full of missionaries to support her. We all sang for her and she loved it! I cannot even explain how beautiful it was to see her be baptized and hear her testimony. 

G was literally a storybook investigator. She was a reference from Madrid that the elders received
and they invited her to church. She came and sat down by M and M invited G to her home to hear the missionaries. G took everything so perfectly! She always did the extra studies on the
pamphlets and was just so prepared to receive the gospel, it made my jaw drop. On the day of her baptism during her testimony she talked about how she was so grateful for the savior who had redeemed her soul and given her a fresh start through baptism. You better believe I was crying like a baby.

After the baptism all the missionaries just shuffled on through to zone meeting. And President Anderson stayed to be with us. I was again astounded at what a simple principle faith is. And how beautiful it is that through real faith we can do anything. We can find the people to teach and have the words to teach them. Our zone leaders showed a clip from facing the Giants. I know you know it, it's the part where the coach blindfolds Brock and makes him do the death crawl and tells him to go to the 50 yard line. Well because of the blindfold Brock didn't stop at the 50 he made it to the end zone.

This is pretty inspiring from a missionary standpoint. Sometimes we might be tempted to look at
what we have done, and say oh fine that's good enough. But no!! Not at all! What we have done doesn't justify what we could be doing. Just as the coach asked for Brock's heart the Savior is asking for mine. He calls to us, "give me everything. I need your heart"! And I'm going to give it to him. I am learning more and more that this work requires the heart. There is no way around it. You cannot hold back from it or you will just be wasting your time being unhappy. I know it will be a process but I'm going to really give everything all that I used to be or hoped to become to the Lord and let Him make me what he needs here. 

We also had intercambios this week. I was with Hermana Giler. She is probably the cutest spukiest missionary ever! I learned so much from her about being happy all the time. Just choosing to love the mission rather than being stressed about it. This week we had a super fun volleyball activity where the whole ward got together and played. I'm still not too great at it but it was defiantly fun to try. Also the missionaries of my district made it their goal to make me better at the keep ups. I made a total of three so that's progress!

Today for p day we went to the castle in Malaga. But it was pouring rain. But that wasn't about to stop us. So you will be happy to know me and Hermana Gallegos got really good at singing the song singing in the rain and rhythmically splashing water. It was so fun to just go a little crazy, maybe even fall down a stone ramp that was super slippery. But who else can say that they slipped and fell while hiking to a castle in a rain storm in Spain. I'm not sure ;)

Love you all so much!
Hermana Smalley

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

I love having someone who just laughs with me when things get hard

Hola querida familia mía

This week has been a serious roller coaster of good and hard and better. There is a quote by Alex Boye that Hermana Gallegos shared with me, I'll modify it a little but here it is:

"The mission is like a roller coaster, but a roller coaster on an elevator going up."

And it is so true! You defiantly have your ups and downs on the mission, but even the downs are teaching you to be stronger and better and taking you higher!

Alright that being said let me tell you about this crazy week of mine.  Last Monday we all came to the chapel as a zone and played volleyball.  It was really fun to just unwind and have a good time together. The zone leaders made us homemade pizza and we just had a blast. Then we went and made more pizza with an investigator named Annie! (Every time we go visit her, the song Annie by Safety Suit comes into my head, THERE WAS A GIRL NAMED ANNIE!)   So yeah, Shannon should get that one... And mom it's on my iPod) Annie is absolutely wonderful and I cannot wait to help her gain a stronger testimony.

After a morning soccer game
Tuesday morning I played goalie for the first time in real Spanish street soccer. And I loved it! I get to use my hands!  Seriously playing soccer is so hard because my hands just want to move one way, and my feet can't move the other way... But put me in cage and I feel right at home! :)  The JAS (YSA) come play with us for our thirty min in the mornings and it gets pretty crazy but it is always a good way to wake up. I also had my first district meeting. Hermana Gallegos and I are the only sisters and then we have zone leader Johnson and Tirana and then district leader Dean and Elder Puelles.  All in all we are a pretty solid bunch. I got to meet another one of our investigators
named E. She has been investigating  the church for at least a year now. She has been dropped by a lot of missionaries, but Hermana Gallegos and I both felt we needed to teach her. She really doesn't understand why the missionaries do what we do. She understands how hard missionary work is and said she wouldn't let her children go.  Hermana Gallegos and I got to bear testimony of this work and told her there was only one way she could understand - We got her to commit to prayer, honest and sincere prayer. It was seriously such a cool lesson
and we will see what happens.

We also found an investigator at the park who had been taught in the past but because of language barriers the missionaries moved on. Well she was so excited to find us and asked that we come to her house and teach her so we will be doing that  on Wednesday.  Sometimes at night Hermana Gallegos and I just go a little crazy because we are just so tired.  She is seriously just like a sister to me.  I love having someone who just laughs with me when things get hard or I do something silly. We are super excited for when we can meet up after the mission
because we will both be living in Provo:)

This week we had an awesome activity and we spent a lot of time planning and getting everything ready but here is what happened. Our Bishop made invitations that looked like airplane tickets.  Seriously!  They were so similar the people we invited got confused and were asking us why we were trying to send them to Japan!  But we invited 
everyone to come and play games and watch a movie with us.  So the night came and we had 8 different games. Hermana Gallegos and I were in charge of making a family tree.  We had everyone write a name of a family member on a leaf with a memory of them and put it on a tree. It was fun to see what people remembered and treasured about their family. Then we had everyone go into the cultural hall like it was an airplane. And our bishop dressed up as a pilot and everything! It was awesome!  Some JAS dressed up as flight attendants and served drinks ect. then the plane crashed!  And we all dressed up as Angels and explained the kingdoms of glory. People loved it! It was really fun to be with the members and see our investigators come and make friends

So, before this week Hermana Smalley had never been stung by a bee. It was an experience I was hoping to avoid. But alas no. We were walking home and I was shuffling my feel a little because I was tired.  And a
bee flew into my sandal!  Now bees, I'd assume, don't like being in shoes, and it stung me right in the arch of my foot!  But how lucky it stung me there rather than the ball or the heel, because then it would have hurt so much more to walk. So at least one life experience is down! :)

This week I met G. She is our investigator with a fetcha (date).  And she is amazing! She calls us her little girls and is just such a rock! We don't get to teach too often because she lives in a pueblo (city) where the bus system doesn't run so a member gives us a ride once a week.  But this week, she was in Malaga, so we got to teach her twice and she was at the activity!  She has such a strong testimony of Heavenly Father! I cannot wait for her to be able to make her first covenant with her Father in Heaven!

We had a miracle with G this week.  We were sitting down to teach her and a friend of hers walks in. And cute G said M, these are my daughters the missionaries, come listen.  And M said she knew about the Mormons in Argentina but had lost contact with them and she was so excited to hear a message from the Mormon missionaries!  Well we talked to her and set a baptismal date!  Alright, that might not seem so miraculous to some people, but it really is!  Hermana Gallegos and I did a lot of walking this week, a whole lot!  Talking with as many
people as we could and we found no one.  Not one person who wanted to hear us.  Then to have someone just walk into a lesson prepared to be baptized - What a testimony to how great this work is!  What a testimony
that the Lord is so mindful of his children and knows what they need!  I'm so happy to be a part of it!

This week I have learned a lot about patience.  I have learned that sometimes we get so caught up in looking at the flaws of others we forget that each of us are painfully aware of our own flaws.  And we don't need others to point them out.  So why do we feel the need to point out others flaws, in the name of helping them be better.  Each one
of us is a beloved child of God.  He is working with each of us individually to become better, so let's let Him do that work with us rather than trying to butt in and do the work for others, because I promise it won't let work. I hope that made sense.  Because it was seriously such an eye opener this week to me that if I can just hold my tongue and love people, Heavenly Father can help them the best He can.

I have mentioned before that we walked a lot this week. And we did. This week we had the lowest numbers I've had in my mission. We spent a lot of time out in the streets getting rejected. Every night I felt like it was all I could do to roll into bed and I fell asleep on my knees for the first time.  I won't lie, it has been hard.  And what's
harder is that some times I feel like a bad missionary because I don't love waking around all day.  I struggle to keep my spirits up. This week I really wanted to say, "Alright that's it!  Mental health day!"  But then I realized, isn't that why we grow so much on our missions?  Because we can't take mental health days.  We keep pushing forward even when we don't want too.  We put on a smile and keep moving forward.  Doesn't that build character? Doesn't that make stronger people?  I sure think it does!  It also provides an opportunity every day to choose to see the good, to choose to be happy and grateful for this opportunity. I know that this mission is custom designed for Hermana Smalley.  To make her better and to make her what Heavenly Father needs in a mother and a sister in Zion.  So bring it on:)  I'm ready to learn.

I shared this with Dad already, but this week in the scriptures I found a scripture that I really like in Doctrine and Covenants 62:3.  Look it up if you have time. I have learned a lot on my mission that I am not the missionary I want to be all the time.  I fail.  I mess up.  And Heavenly Father only has imperfect humans to work with here.  How sad:/ And yet, He promises in this scripture that despite all my imperfections and short comings, if I hear testimony of Him, my sins and failings will be forgiven.  What an amazing promise!  I will continue to do my best every day to become a better missionary.  But I will fail, and He continually invites me to keep trying and be better.  How
merciful is our God!  The second part I love is that of the Angels rejoicing over our testimonies!  I'm sure you can imagine why two sunburned sweaty hermanas loved this scripture!  Even though no one wanted to hear us, even though we were rejected, every time we bore testimony, Angels were rejoicing with us!  This scripture rang so true with me this week and brought a lot of peace to my soul.

Last thing is Alma 5:44.  Here Alma is talking about his calling.  And I realized that it is also my calling. What an honor to join with the amazing missionaries of old!  I want to live in a way worthy of their names and those of my family.  So know that this Hermana is going to keep working and sweating every day until I finish!

Much love,
Hermana Smalley