Tuesday, November 15, 2016

6 Areas, 12 Companions, 18 Months!

November 14, 2016

Dearest family,

Well here it is, it still doesn't seem real but President already told me they really are kicking me out soon. I need
to apologize - my last p-day will be spent in meetings and baptizing G. So we don't have tons of time to write so I'll see what I can do. 

Alright so last Monday was consejo! I still don't really believe it. It was a completely different consejo from the one I first came into, but it was incredible. The Spirit was so strong the whole time. I honestly was so scared to give my taller because I didn't want to ruin the Spirit. But I started my taller doing something that set mission history. I made an Elder bench press with four different spotters talking about what kind of leaders we were going to be. It went well I think. We also got to see the new Christmas initiative! I am literally so excited because it is something I can do at home. So watch out family! I'm planning on hitting the ground running. 

Honestly it was such a special and bitter sweet experience. I cried more than I ever have in my mission because it finally hit me, that I actually have to leave this beautiful country and these wonderful people I love so much. There was a time that President asked us to take off our chapas (name tags) and just look at them. So many things came rushing to my mind. I remember my last dinner at home where Joe talked to me about what it means to wear our families name right over Christ's on our heart all day, every day. Yes, I cried. My whole mission I have tried my best to live up to my Savior's name, to never do anything that would shame Him while I was His representative.  And that I could live up to the name of our family and make those on both sides of the veil proud. It was such a tender moment to just sit and reflect and be able to just feel so much gratitude in my heart for the mission I have been given and not be sitting there wishing I had done it better. Even as I wrote this, I drew so much comfort from the fact that I do not need to give up the honor of wearing my Savior's name. I covenanted to do that already.  Even if others cannot read it, I hope to always live up to the two names that will always follow me. Chapa or no. 

After consejo there was the normal lío of pictures and goodbyes. I managed to put off the worst goodbyes for
last, but saying goodbye to sweet Elder Rivero broke my heart. But after consejo we had a tender moment where all of the people still there just sat down and chatted and enjoyed the spirit of the mission home. Then we got into a meeting with President where we finalized transfers and my favorite quote from that meeting came from President, "I won't tell you the new AP, I won't give away the upper hand!  You all have out shown me too much! If I don't hold some cards close, you might replace me!" We laughed so hard and then he told us anyway. I love President Andersen. Then we all sat down and had lunch and got to chat some more. Then we all got into the car and went to the airport to greet some new couple missionaries. It was so fun to just hug them and tell them how much fun they were going to have. Then we hopped on the cercanías and got back in time to work that night. 

We got to teach A again. Man he is so awesome! Progressing so well, I know that Hermana Peters is gonna take good care of him. Then we had our last noche de Hogar with L and E and M and G. It was so fun we got to talk about family history work. I'm so pumped to get going on that when I get home. 

Wednesday was supposed to be just a normal day, but after our first cita, Hermana Portas told me that her ear was hurting a lot. So we called Hermana Frost. She told us to go to the hospital, so we went got some meds and that was that. That night we had  a great time running around and doing citas and teaching people. We were so blessed this week to be able to teach so many people!

Thursday, last weekly planning. Yay! We started and then everyone in the world decided to call us. So we had to take care of a few things before we could get down to it. But then C and F took us out to lunch at a restaurante. I don't even remember the last time I ate at one of those. It was super good and we had a great time. I love those two so much! That night we went to the ER again for my companions ear. They told her more of the same... so yeah. 

Friday we had zone meeting. It was so good! I got to give a taller and a final testimony which was so strange. I
remember all of those missionaries who have always given them every zone meeting, so strange to think that I am one of them now. We all went out to eat at our favorite Bolivian restaurant after that and we had a grand old time. 

Saturday was my last full day of work. It was crazy but we loved it. You want to know why? Because almost every plan failed. We laughed because of course it wouldn't be any other way - it was so fitting for a last day. We also got to meet with G one more time before his baptism. He made me cry because he told us that his baptism was going to be unforgettable. Then he turned and looked at us and said, " Thank you. Thank you for teaching me, just thank you for everything". It got me. We all shared our testimonies and it was one of the sweetest moments of my mission. We also got to meet with S one more time that night. He has come so far in a year and I hope to hear that he keeps going! 

Sunday was such a bittersweet day. Church went really well.  A came and he loved it!  We were going to go to class with him but the bishop asked us 2 min before if we would be willing to teach the jóvenes (youth). So we taught them about how to be a Christlike missionary. It was so special to be able to talk to them and just tell them that it was my last Sunday and I didn't regret a moment of it. Then we bore our testimonies in sacrament meeting.  Then at the very end of the meeting the Bishop called Elder Bussell and I up to the stand. We were so confused, but we went up. Then the whole congregation stood and sang, God be with You till We Meet Again. I cried like a little girl. It was so tender. I love these people so much! They have forever blessed my life. 

Sunday night was a rush of meetings and numbers and eating with the Canos. It was a great day! 

Upon request these are some thoughts. But I honestly cannot do it justice. I plan on writing a little bit more later. 

This mission has been such a wonderful experience. I have been so grateful for every moment that I have been able to spend here. It is so interesting how those words can become so hollow isn't it? We say them so much they lose their meaning, but I really feel that the words that I want to use to express just how much my mission has meant to me, will never suffice. I remember a couple letters back I wrote you about what I had learned in each of my areas and I finished telling you that we would yet see what Malaga 1 was trying to teach me. Well I am sure I haven't learned all of the lessons just yet, that will come with time and refection on my precious time spent here. I have learned one major lesson that has changed my life. 

I have learned how to rely on my Savior. I have learned that having faith in Him means taking life as it comes, with a smile on my face, because I know I can handle what is sent, if I just recognize that I cannot do it alone. My whole life I have turned away, trying to do it on my own, trying to prove that I am independent. But there is such beauty in our total dependance on God and on Jesus Christ. I have learned that His love always surrounds me. 

Before my mission I thought I knew my Savior, I thought I knew him because I had felt his love come in and wipe away guilt and shame and lift me up. But on my mission I have really come to know my Savior. I have learned that His love is not conditional on my successful performance, because I have felt it lift me up during my biggest failures. I have felt His love come to me when I know I didn't deserve it, and I have felt His love as He has shown me, bit by bit, who He knows I can become. I have never thought someone could love me so much as to think I can become all that He thinks I can become. What I have realized is that it is my love that is shown through action. His love is always there, but my love is shown by the use of my agency in the way He taught. I hope to continue using my agency in a way that will please Him.

I gave this my best. It is hard to believe that this time can become more of a treasure for me than it is already, but I know it will. I don't need to tell you that when I get home I plan on hitting the ground running. There is no time to go back. I want to continue to show God that He can trust me, even outside of the schedule and demands of the mission. 

All my love,

Hermana Smalley

Thursday, November 10, 2016

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

November 7, 2016

Dearest family,

Well it's true! Spain took a turn for cold and I'm finally believing that it is November. The orange trees that line the streets of Malaga are full of oranges and the streets smell like citrus. It's like the whole city is decorating itself for the season. The lights have gone up and the little roasted chestnut stands have also popped up everywhere. It truly is a magical time to be in Malaga. 

It has been another wonderful week here in Spain and the transfer madness has begun. I don't remember how
save the rest for another day. So come this year I was pretty nervous about what Halloween would bring. Turns out it was an awesome day! I told you we ended Pday early so we could have a meeting with President. We had a 4 hour meeting talking about just about everything and we were about to head back to Malaga when Hermana Andersen asked us if we wanted some chillie. Of course. So our cute little family sat down and ate chillie together. Then President Andersen brought out American candy in honor of the holiday. Then we drove into Fuengirola and President dropped us off at the office so we could take care of some business. Well, as we rang the office door we all switched our chapas and held up our book of mormons and yelled "trick or treat!" The office staff got a kick out of it and we had to run to catch the train back to Malaga. 

Tuesday we had district meeting. I knew Elder Bussell had a taller about weekly planning and I won't lie to you, I was less than enthusiastic. Like I have said before, Weekly planning, not my favorite. But he gave an amazing taller that made me repent and helped me get a little excited for planning Thursday morning. After we went with the other
district to a Thai restaurant. It was super good. And we all had a great time. I didn't realize it at the time but that was my last district meeting. Pretty sad but I've had an awesome run. After that we met with G. We asked him if he had talked with his parents yet. He started looking at the ground and asked if we would be willing to go with him to ask. We assumed that meant he hadn't asked, so we set the cita. Then slowly he started to smile and while still looking at the ground he said. "I think she is going to say yes!"  He then told us he had talked a little bit with his mom and he got what he called a 50% yes. We freaked out and wanted to hug him - but we didn't, don't worry, we didn't!  Then while we were teaching another lesson the Hermanas from Sevilla arrived to do intercambios (exchanges) . I was finally able to be companions with Hermana Hauber. Oh my goodness!  I love her to death. We went and got to teach M and Hermana Hauber taught lesson one in a way that I had never seen before. I loved it. Then we ran back and did a lesson with L and G. Barcelona was playing that night and normally that means G doesn't come. But he came! We taught about tithing using chocolate and it was super fun. Good night. 

Wednesday we got to eat paella for the second time. Yay! Then the moment came. We went walking to G's house. That 15 min walk was the longest walk of my life!! When we got there he was outside waiting for us and we went in together. We talked it through with his mom and SHE SAID YES!!! We wanted to yell scream cry, you know, the whole thing. But in the end we just said a very heartfelt prayer of gratitude. We scheduled his baptism for the 14th. Tender mercy. I hope it all works out. You know with these things, I'm never calm until they are under the water. Then we had an an awesome noche de Hogar and G and P both came! We got to teach P after about the plan of salvation. He is awesome. The mission is awesome. 

I survived weekly planning! It was actually a super good one. Then we headed out to C and F. Carla's husband never comes home to eat when he know the missionaries are there because he isn't a member. But this week she didn't tell him we were coming! So we sat there super scared waiting to surprise attack him. It was super funny, but it went so well. We had another pallea and talked about water polo - you know some of my favorites. 

We shared Exodus 4:2 with them. This was right after Moses received the command to free the slaves in Egypt. Pretty daunting task. He had asked God how on earth he was going to get the people to follow him and when God asked him what he had in his hands he responded simply " a rod."  I imagine he said it just a little discouraged thinking," now what on earth am I going to do with this rod?"  And how often do we have the same feelings?  When we are called to do something we look at the sum of our talents and resources and are discouraged because all we see is a useless rod.  But we encouraged them to remember all that God did with that rod. Miracles! Now think of all he can do with a willing heart and your talents. Incredible, eh? 

That night we got to meet with A again and we taught him the word of wisdom. It was awesome! When we finished his first and only question was, " so this is a requirement to go to the celestial kingdom?"  Allí vamos casi! (Here we go!)  It was adorable really. We also taught S about the 2000 stripling warriors.  I'm being told I love scripture stories a little too much while teaching, but hey, God gives us the why in the commandments and the how in the story, right? He also gave us polverones and since Hermana Portas doesn't like them, I'll be bringing them home for all of you. I love them. 

Friday normal wonderful missionary day not much to report. Saturday, we started stake conference!  It was awesome!  G came and I mostly just loved seeing so many saints together in one chapel. It always brings a special spirit. After stake conference, President wanted to talk for a few minuets. We had an hour long meeting which ended in Hermanas Smalley and Portas running through the streets of Malaga, after the hour, trying to get home. All in a day! 

Just so you at home can come to love President Andersen as much as we do, here's a highlight from the meeting: President told us about one of his friends who gets up every morning and looks in the mirror and yells, " I'M SO EXCITED!  I just can't take it!  I can't wait for tomorrow because I just keep getting better looking every day!"  And yes he did demonstrate it. It had us all dying of laughter. 

Sunday morning we got up and met President and Hermana Andersen at the church and drove to Granada for the rest of stake conference. It was incredible!  Seriously, seeing this huge chapel full of saints from all over made me all emotional.  Hermana Portas and I were asked to translate the meeting. .... so you remember how I told you this massive stake center was full! Yeah. We had to translate! 😅 it was actually a mission dream of mine but I didn't think it would be on such a huge scale. It is hard! Listening and talking at the same time. I just had to picture that the only person listening was Hermana Andersen and it went okay.  But because we were translating, we got to sit up on the stand and it was powerful to be able to see everyone. After the meeting I was trying to avoid everyone who looked like they spoke English because I was so embarrassed.  But Hermana Frost came up to me and hugged me and thanked me for doing such a good job. So I think it went well. 

Also highlight of stake conference. I got to see Brielle! Or Hermana Twede as she is known here in Spain! It was
funny because Hermana Matsu is here as well and she played for Utah county. Yeah, they hate us. But no biggie - we are all on the same team now!  We had an awesome talk about water polo. Then we drove home with President. Oh man, it was so fun!  We were driving just chatting away and then president gasps.  Hermana Andersen asked him what he forgot. He looked at us and said, " I forgot to drop you off!"  We realized that we had passed Malaga 20 min ago and we're almost to the mission home. Fun stuff. That night we did numbers and got to teach a new person. 

Today we left early to go get the "man talk" from Elder Frost. Man, it was good. He reminded me that when I get home the first person I'm gonna meet is me. And suddenly 1.5 year old Hermana Smalley is gonna come face to face with 19 year old Erinn Smalley.  And Hermana Smalley is gonna need to fight that Goliath. I just hope that I can apply what I have learned and not just come back the same as I was. Believe it or not, I have made loads of changes that I think are for the better! So please be patient with me. 

Consejo is tonight so that should be fun. 
Love you all so much! 

Hermana Smalley. 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The most bittersweet Baptism

October 31, 2016

Dearest family,

Um what happened to last week? Seriously time just keeps flying by whether I like it or not. So I'm just trying to enjoy the ride, you know? Also just an FYI apology I am typing this on a computer that has spanish spell check... so my normal horrid spelling, aun peor.

Last Monday we got to go to be with Obispo Padilla again! We kinda just crashed at his house and talked about life and all the mysterious things that one normally talks about with Obispo Padilla. We also enjoyed M's wonderful food and just got to relax which was honestly so needed. We actually felt ready to take on the week at the end of 

After we finished P-day we went to F´s house and we read with him about Enos and talked about the importance of prayer. It is always so amazing to me all the problems that this one little practice can solve. If we can really develop a relationship with God through prayer He will be able to pick us up and comfort us in the worst times, and amplify our joy in the best of times. We also got to teach my good friend A. We taught him all about the plan God made just for him, well everyone else too, but He loved it. He said it all made perfect sense. We also asked him if he had read the Book of Mormon, and he told us that he had almost finished the first part. We thought he was talking about the first chapter of Nephi, but in fact, he was talking about the first book of Nephi and he loved it.

That night we ran into a cute joven from mexico name Y, and it made me think a lot of Joel. We are going to teach her later in the week, but I am pretty excited about it. Also this week our zone leaders did a huge emphasis on finding futures, Hermana Portas and I have honestly been running around so much that our contacting has been suffering a little. But we decided that we were going to improve, so we set some goals and basically were trying to contact the whole world this week and it was so FUN. We had so many funny experiences and met so many wonderful children of God. I have been amazed at just how good most people are and have developed such a love for my brothers and sisters (and for those of you who knew me before the mission, you know that I really struggled with that before the mission) and besides that one guy who stole my wallet, I have been so surprised with the genuine goodness of the people that surround us. I feel like the news would have us think that the whole world is falling apart and that humans are the worst, but in reality there are good people everywhere just doing the best they can in a crazy world. And even that guy whole took my wallet, I love him. I'm sure he really needed those bus passes. Also, our passion for contacting might have come from our small fear of our new zone leader, Elder Maldonado. Just kidding!  He is literally awesome, so motivated and wants the whole zone to give everything, he has been a zone leader for 4 weeks now and I have been nothing but impressed by what he has done - well impressed, and yes, a little scared, hence lots of contacting!

Tuesday it was more of talking to the whole world, and we also had a wonderful district meeting, I was so embarrassed because the whole time I was coughing up a storm, but we laughed about it later. That night we got to meet with a less active member. He talked to us about how since his baptism he has fallen back into a lot of old habits that he knows are wrong, but he doesn't feel like he has the strength to stop.  And because of those habits, he feels like he cannot come back to church. I have been so surprised at how effectively Satan has used that lie to keep so many people from coming to church. We all have our failings, we all have our problems that we are working on, and in reality not one of us is worthy of all the blessings we receive upon coming to church.  How merciful that God didn't leave it up to us! He told us to come, and gain strength from Him to overcome our problems. I have been amazed at how quickly things go downhill when we forget to do the simple things, read, pray, and come to church. How on earth could we hope to overcome our stronger trials if we aren't doing the small things? That night we got to teach G about fasting with L - it was awesome.

Wednesday we were in meetings all day. Yay. We talked with President about the consejo that is coming up. We were talking about a couple different things we could address with all the leaders and who would present each topic.  We had been talking about 5 different topics and we had a great discussion going, and then President stopped and said, "Perfect!  Hermana Smalley, why don´t you talk about that."  We all kinda stopped and looked at each other and asked, "Well which one?" and President said, "All of them!" 😨 So we will see how that goes. That night we got home with 15 min left of the night. So we contacted. We were walking through a part of an area that all the homeless people sleep, so we try to keep our heads down and avoid it at night. As we were walking we were surprised to see a well dressed man sitting on a bench, he looked like an extranjero and thinking that he might not know that danger of the area he was in, we went to go chat with him. He addressed us in English and we had an awesome chat with him.  Turns out he did know exactly where he was, he had been robbed that week!  I could sympathize.  He also had just lost his job and was now out on the streets until his next job began this week. We had an awesome lesson, just goes to show, you never know who you will find.

Thursday we had weekly planning, any time I feel like I am going to break because I am so sad that the mission is ending, I remember that I won't have to weekly plan and it sometimes makes me feel better.  I have no idea why, I just started detesting weekly planning so much... but I would do it for another year, everyday, if it meant I could stay.  Enough sad talk. We weekly planned, then got on a bus and went to eat with C and F, nothing too much to report there except that F told me he will be spending Christmas in New Jersey, and I about died!  The holidays in Manhattan, oh my!  So lucky.

We got back a little late because the bus takes so long, but when we got back we had intercambios with Hermana
Brown and Hermana Pastrana from Murcia. It was awesome to be with those two!  We went to teach A again and taught him Lesson three and got to talk about baptism, so much fun. Then we walked all the way out to C's and got to teach her.  Right at first, things just weren't quite right, and I felt strange about jumping right into the lesson, so we just talked a little bit about the Savior and tried to just give her some love. After a while she started laughing and the lesson ended up going well. I am just so grateful for the Spirit, so that we don't have to try to teach these people alone, but we had the Spirit whispering over our shoulder what each of them needs. Hermana Brown and I also got to talk a lot. I love that lady and I am so impressed by her strength in all that she is overcoming and working through. She constantly reminds me of my many blessings.

Friday morning I was with the lovely Hermana Pastrana. I have heard so much about her I was so excited to finally work with her. She is also from Mexico and I honestly was left in awe by how awesome she is! The way she talks to people and teaches is so natural and fun, she got me excited to head what message we were going to share with the people even though I already knew. We got to teach S about the temple and help him get all excited about going. If it didn't work too well for him, it sure worked for me!  I miss the temple so much! 

That night we met with F again and he told us all about his white shirt and tie he was going to wear to church. It was so tender. Then we got to go teach J (G´s sister) and got to talk to her mom a lot which was so good - we are finally forming a relationship with them. Then we got to teach a new friend, P. I don´t think I have ever taught someone so catholic before. But he loved church and loved what we had to say about the Restoration. We are working on helping him understand it a little bit better. 

Saturday morning we had the bitter sweet baptism. R and S are two friends of the elders that we have all worked really hard to help. Hermana Portas and I have been teaching them in English, and the FHE that we do and all the missionaries here love them so much!  They are a cute young couple from Boliva and their son L, who is 7, is adorable. Anyway, we went all out on their baptism. I let S wear my white dress and we just tried to make it as special as possible. It was the most beautiful baptism I have ever been a part of!  They both bore the most wonderful testimonies that I have ever heard. R actually made me cry, because starting to read the Book of Mormon was a bit of a struggle for him, and Hermana Portas and I really worked with him on that. He got up and talked about how he had always believed in God but struggled to believe in the God the Catholic church teaches of, or even the God of the Old Testament - a  God who only punishes if we don't follow him. With tears in his eyes he held up the Book of Mormon and told of the God that Jesus teaches of in the Book of Mormon and the New
Testament. He told us how he had found the God he worships in this church and that he knew that the Book of Mormon was true. I literally cried because I remembered Mom sharing her testimony, with almost those exact same words before my mission. S´s testimony was equally beautiful as she talked about how alone they were when they first moved from Bolivia and how Elder Quispe talked to them and showed them a new family. Now you might be asking, Hermana Smalley, that just sounds like a sweet baptism where does the bitter come from?  Les muestro. Because of a family emergency right after their baptism they were confirmed and then they had to move. They just moved to a little town outside of Barcelona. So their baptism was the last time I got to see them. Yes I cried like a little girl. It was so sad to have to say goodbye to such incredible people. As we sang the closing hymn I was conducting, I looked up and saw Rodrigo showing little L how to read the music and sing the hymn and it got me again. I know that this little family is going to do incredible things.

That night we also got to meet with G, who still hasn't been able to talk to his parents, but he told us that if it were up to him, he would get baptized tomorrow. So we are going to talk with his parents with him and see how it goes. 

Sunday I got a whole lot of animo to go home and help Grandma Erb with family history work. So just get ready people! I can´t wait to help as much as possible to help our family get all the blessings of the Gospel! Then we went and ate with E, which is always so fun, and we ate giant shrimp - you know shrimp with the head and legs still on. A personal favorite... Then back to the church, as we put numbers in our phones started ringing like crazy. Turns out with the new area book, it messed up how we put in our numbers, so we were calling around the mission trying to get it all worked out, and Hermana Portas and I ended up putting the numbers for every area in one by one. When we finished, it turns out our 2 hour project didn't save... more phone calls and well, just a big headache!  But it all got worked out. 

Today to celebrate my 3rd to last Pday, we have a meeting with President. yay.

Love you all so much, this work is incredible and I will allways be so greatful that God lets me be a part of it.

Hermana Smalley

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Christ is our spotter...

October 24, 2016
Dearest family,

I know it shouldn't surprise me anymore just how quickly the weeks fly by but, it seriously seems like it was yesterday that I was writing all of you! These weeks are just slipping through my fingers I don't quite believe it!

Anyway, so last Monday was probably the worst p-day ever! Sounds pretty negative, huh? But let me explain. We went to do our morning shopping per normal. And in one moment to another I didn't have my wallet anymore, so my DNI, my drivers license, temple recommend... everything was gone. We spent an hour looking for it just in case but it was gone. It was a shame, but hey, everything in there is replaceable, except my Spanish identification. So that's a bummer. But we headed to the centro to go bike riding at the boardwalk with the Elders. When we got there all the bikes we had reserved were gone... so we went to another place and we all got on our bikes. We then got lost, my companion crashed, and the peddle of my bike just fell off in the middle of the road cutting my foot. We all just kinda looked around and laughed. It was just too funny!  We kept asking what else could go wrong? We then headed out on the pier and had some fun getting close to the water and just relaxing. All in all, it was a pretty good day in spite of all of our little dramas. 

That night we got to meet with two new investigators who are awesome! And then we tried to go to the police station to report my wallet and ID and all that jazz, but the line was so long we ended up just sitting there and running home to make it on time. 

Tuesday we had district meeting and I gave a taller on setting goals. I resurrected an old one from Jerez. Comparing the process of setting goals to that of the bother of Jared making his plan. Then we ran off to eat with cute R. That night we got to pass by F and C. They are both doing so well and it warms my heart to see the progress they have made since their baptism. That night we got to go out looking for some old futures and got to teach a few of them. Then we went to go be with L.  We were so sad because G didn't come, but turns out it was a blessing, because L really just needed some love from us and so we were able to give her some. 

Wednesday we were just in the police station pretty much all day. Yeah... it was pretty fun. Not really at all, but I got to do lots of Book of Mormon reading! Then we taught English to some little kids so we sang lots of fun songs and the Elders laughed at us. 

Thursday we got to go eat with K and F again and they showed me all the pictures of Hermana Clark. Oh man, I love that lady! Then we got to teach a menos activo and he told us just how much he has been missing the Church and all he had found there. We got to teach him about growing our faith. Then we met with G and talked about baptism again. He told us he really wants to but his parents won't let him. But we got to meet with him again and he told us that he wanted to and he was going to talk with his parents today! So please pray for him and his parents. 

Friday morning a whole lot of putting off being sick caught up with me and we had to take it easy.  Then the Hermanas from Alicante came in to do intercambios. Oh my!  How I love Hermana Peters and Hermana Whaley! I got to be with Hermana Whaley that night and we got to teach A again. The whole time he just kept telling us that it seemed like he needed to read the Book of Mormon to know for himself. We were pretty happy he understood that. Then we went to a Relief Society activity. I loved being able to just talk to Hermana Whaley. She is so incredible! 

The next morning I got to be with Hermana Peters! She is also incredible. I feel like I cannot say more about her than I have already said. She is incredible and I wish I could be more like her. We got to teach S together about Alma 32, then off they went back to Alicante and we had correlation. 

Saturday night it was supposed to rain all night and hard. Me and my companion were pretty worried because we didn't have any citas or shoes suited for rain. But God takes care of his missionaries. He opened doors for us all night. We found a bunch of new investigators and we got to teach G again! He is so incredible and I hope that his parents will understand his desires to be baptized. The rain didn't start until the minute before we went inside. God took such good care of us. 

On Sunday we had some awesome meetings and Then we got to eat with the C's again. A personal favorite. They are such a wonderful family! 

I just wanted to finish sharing a thought, Dad mentioned something a while back that caught my eye. He talked about when he had extra time how he would "preach a sermon" or collect his thoughts on a certain topic and then organize them into a talk and give it to himself. So, I have taken up the habit. This week I have been thinking a lot about our Hermanas and the different refiner's fires that each of them are going through.  It has been so interesting to me that sometimes we get so focused on our trails that we forget the purpose behind them.  And well, like I do with most things, I compared it to my experience swimming. 

While I was swimming my coach would have us do weight room workouts 2 or 3 times a week. One of his favorite sets to assign was the lift and then instead of putting reps he would put "until failure."  I hated those sets because it means that you have to lift until you physically cannot lift anymore.  I remember one day I was bench pressing and I lifted until it hurt, I lifted until my arms were shaking and I racked the bar thinking I had done well. My coach walked up at me and yelled, "SMALLEY!  What are you doing?  Why did you stop?"  I told him because it hurt, and he responded, " I didn't say lift until it hurts, I said lift until you fail, lift until your arms give out and you need your spotter to lift the bar off of you. Start again."  So I did and I lifted until I failed. It hurt, and it was scary to find my very limit and need to rely on someone else.  I realized after that by finding my limit, I also found room for real growth.  I saw my weakness, but I also became stronger because I worked right until the end. 

Alright where am I going with this? Well just like I went to the weight room because my coach wanted strong swimmers, we are here on earth, and specifically here in the mission, because God needs strong children. He needs converted, tried and tested disciples. Often that kind of conditioning hurts.  It takes us to the limit.  And it is scary to see where our real limit is, which is often much farther than we are wanting to go in the beginning.  But when a weight or a trail doesn't go away after our prayers and after our pleading and after we have given what we think we have to give, well we haven't reached the point of failure.  God knows we have more to give, that there is room for real growth and He needs us to push until we get there. 

There is just one last part of this analogy that I want to share, and that is the position of the spotter. You can't do a set to failure unless you have a spotter -  a spotter in a better position than you to carry the weight and keep it from killing you when you fail.  Well in our weight room of life, we also have a spotter, Christ, our Savior. He is "mighty to save."  We know He can lift any weight, and carry any burden, and He is right there with us in every moment, hands right under that bar, ready to catch it. So why doesn't He just take it?  We know He can.  But He already proved that He could, didn't He?  The one that needs testing now is me.  If He curled the bar we are supposed to be benching, He would be an awful spotter, and we would never grow stronger.  But we don't need to doubt that the moment our limit has been reached, He will be there to stop the bar from falling.  He would never let our trails overcome us if we are trusting in Him. 

That was just what I have been thinking these past couple days. That when trials don't leave it's because we are stronger than we think and He will be there to help us in every moment. And even though refinement can hurt, it can be a joyous process because we are becoming who He needs. 

Sorry for being so brief on everything I just feel like the whole week flew by! 

Love you. 

Hermana Smalley

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

It's all about the attitude!

October 17, 2016
Dearest family,

Wow what a week it has been here in Malaga! We have managed to stay in our area and actually get a whole lot done! It has been a whirlwind and I can't quite believe it has all ended but hey here we go. 

Monday like I said we spent p-day exploring the castle. It was a party and then we got to teach C. We had an awesome lesson with him on prayer. He has a lot of trials right now and because of them he has been pulling away from God a little bit. We talked to him about how prayer can turn into his most powerful asset in these hard times and as we draw closer to God we can gain strength from Him to continue. I was so touched by the last conference talk that talked of how even when we fail to listen to the Spirit, the moment we say, "Heavenly Father," He is already listening. 

Tuesday was when the crazy started. We got to do intercambios with Jerez. I was with my dear Hermana Rollins again. We went to go teach F and F loved Hermana Rollins! He seriously talked about her for the rest of the week. But we got to teach him about the plan of salvation and honestly every time that I teach that lesson since conference, it  has made me so happy that we have the knowledge we do. Then that night we got to teach G about the importance of prayer and he shared how some of his prayers had been answered. It was so tender to see him open up a little bit more. Talking with Hermana Rollins as always was such a good experience. She is so incredible and teaches me so much every time I get to talk to her. 

Then next morning was a little crazy! We woke up and one of the Hermanas that was with us had an allergic reaction. So off we went to the hospital. It was not quite the plans we had, but everything turned out fine and I stayed in with her that morning. Talking with her was so fun. We got to just throw open the windows and listen to the rain. Oh yeah... ps... the rain has officially come back to Malaga. I hope my sandals can handle 4 more weeks:) That night we saw so many Miracles. Again it was pouring rain so we walked to the chapel and no one came for English, so we bundled up and headed out but right as we did, a less active member came with her little brother and asked for English help. We got to start forming a relationship with her which was awesome! They left early so again we were ready to head out and then an investigator family walks in and asks for lessons. We happily sat down and taught them. As we finished the less active member came back and handed us 2 umbrellas she had bought for us. It was the sweetest thing. That night we had noche de hogar and Elder Frost gave an awesome lesson about the sacrament. 

He mentioned something hat I have thought about a lot. Just that the prayer said over the bread is very demanding. It requires perfect obedience for the Spirit to be with us. Just as Christ was perfect in the flesh. But the prayer over the water only requires that we remember Him, how merciful is that promise? And it is through the blood of Christ that we are able to receive that mercy. There is just so much symbolism. I love it. 

Thursday we had zone meeting and La Mancha came down so our whole zone got to be together and I got to see Elder Kroff! Our zone leaders did an incredible job - it was such an edifying meeting! Then we all went out to eat and we got to talk a lot. It was weird to say some final goodbyes to missionaries that I had just met. I won't lie, I didn't like it realizing that I wouldn't really form a part of the mission they would come to know. Weird stuff. 

That night we got to teach S again! We taught about the power of the priesthood and how it needs to be cultivated and looked after. It has been so fun to see his excitement for the church come back and how hard he is trying. That night Hermana Martin and Hermana Peters spent the night with us. It was a party. 

Friday, weekly planning. Yay. Then we went out to el palo to teach K and F. They are seriously some of my favorite members even if they think that I am 16 years old:)  We got to teach them about the Savior. We shared some scriptures, but mostly just testified of His ability and desire to be there for us every step of this life even when we feel alone. When I looked up I noticed that F was crying. I was a little taken aback and he quickly explained how every time we come we bring some small message that answers a question he had been struggling with. It just proves to me that when we are looking for answers and are ready, the Spirit can teach us through any source. 

We then got home right at 5 and the Hermanas from Malaga came for intercambios.  I was with Hermana Burrell. We got tot each some awesome lessons and then we got to sit and talk just for a moment about how the mission is going. I was so humbled to listen to her tell me of all she is trying to do and trying to be. It is always my favorite part of intercambios to sit down with these hermanas and help them realize how much good they are doing.  I love listening to them and hearing all they are learning through all of this. Hermana Burrell is incredible and I'm so grateful for the time we got to talk. 

Hermana Stephens and I got to work together the next morning. I don't know why but it always seems that we go see people who just love to talk!  When we went, our member asked if she could make some bread really quickly and we thought she meant toast so we said yes, but then she started baking bread!  We died laughing at the circumstance and did our best to get out of the cita.  Hermana Stephens is awesome at taking control of the lesson and showing love while doing it. 

Saturday was F's birthday! We went over with some members and gave him brownies and we all shared our favorite memory of him. It was so cute. That night was a long night of finding those elect and we loved it. 

Sunday was awesome we got to bring J to church with us for an amazing session of ward conference and then we went with G to J's house and did a noche de hogar where we talked about what we can do in return for the Savior's sacrifice. Then we got to play gestures. It was interesting in Spanish and we defiantly had some language barriers but it was fun. Then back to the church for consejo and for numbers. My phone died so we got to do cuentas through FaceTime. 

Alright really quick last thing but this week, I had I guess my first major freak out. I was just thinking about what I had done on my mission and I just started thinking... What if i didn't do everything I was supposed to? What if I had been more focused could I have done more? Here are some thoughts I had 
1. My cute companion turned to me and told me, " I think it makes God happy to see you happy" and I realized it would have been such a shame to waste such a beautiful gift from God by being stressed out the whole time. The mission is not meant to be suffered though but we are supposed to love giving our all and just because I am having fun doesn't mean I'm sinning. 

2. I realized that God is the judge. I cannot judge what I have done because that is His job, I can only give my small offering and hope that He can make it what he needs of it. 

3. I also realized that God doesn't need me as a driving force. He is God. He is the driving force but I can be an instrument of His and as long as I was always looking for His will and doing my best, He wouldn't let me mess up too badly. 

I thought of a lot more things but I can't remember them right now. I am just so grateful for this chance I have had, for the things I have learned and that my small offering is enough.  It didn't change the world but it did change me. 

Love you all! 

Hermana Smalley 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

We stormed the castle...

October 10, 2016
Dearest family,

What an incredible week it has been here yet again in Spain. I'm so privileged for every minute I get to spend in this beautiful country! Last week we adventured in Ronda, our car got stuck, but with some prayer and a lot of pushing, we managed to get out and back to Malaga safe and sound for proselyting time. Hermana Clark and I got to visit R. She is a cute recent convert, I was actually here at her baptism one year ago, I had to run home and grab my white clothes for her. It was fun to see her and catch up a little. Later that night we got a call from the office to inform us that here were two Hermanas waiting for us to pick them up and take them to our house. SURPRISE! So we went and got Hermana Gibson and Hermana Thielke and we had a party. 

Tuesday morning we had to go to the chapel first thing and clean up a little bit before the new missionaries came in. We got to go to Vialia and pick them all up. It brought back so many memories watching these new missionaries come in. Some of them looking so scared and others looking so excited. I just remember how I felt when I came in, I was terrified and had no idea what to expect! Their faith is incredible and I am so excited for them and this wonderful adventure that they have started. It was strange because they all started asking how long I had been out, it about killed me when I told them 17 months. Their faces were priceless. 

We brought them back to the chapel and started the orientation. I got to talk about companionship unity and I shared with them something Hermana Rocha told me on my. first day.  We were reading in the manual missional and she looked up and said, " if you fall I fall, and I won't fall."  That has stuck with me my whole mission. Remembering that my companion is first priority and I need to do all I can be to be the best for them. I also shared with them something McKay shared with me before I left, about the positive influence they can have on their trainers - that all of their excitement and energy is just what we all need. 

After the trainers came and we got to watch all of the companionships meet for the first time.  It was incredible to know what I know about the trainers, and after having met the new missionaries, realizing how inspired each companionship was. I think Elder Garcia and I might have scared his companion with how many inside jokes that we have, but Elder Erickson doesn't know how lucky he is! We all ate together and then sent them out to contact in different parts of Malaga. 

During that time Hermana Clark and I snuck away to go visit F. When we got there he showed us the tie he had just bought to wear to church.  It was such a tender moment for Hermana Clark and I to talk with him and see how much joy and change the gospel has brought into his life. We then caught on with the new mission spirit and contacted like crazies. We were so excited and forgot for just a moment all the other things we needed to do, and just talked with everyone we could.  After We all met up again at the church and had a small devotional.  We gave the new missionaries time to set goals  and then asked each of them to bear a short testimony.  Each of their humble testimonies touched me. They all talked of why they came out and the duty they felt to give all they had to the Lord.  I know that as they learn to rely on the Lord each of them will see His hand in their work - guiding them and helping them in every aspect of this work. 

After the testimonies we gave them their first paella thanks to Elder Quispe.  It was delicious!  Then Hermana Clark and I snuck away again to go teach G and L one last time. We testified of our Prophet and listened to his conference address. What a privilege.  

Then Wednesday came.  Oh man... it was a rough one. We all got up and then headed to the train station.  I said some goodbyes for the last time to some incredible friends as they got on busses and headed to their new areas.  Then we got to help Hermana Pickett learn how to drive in Spain.  As we were driving around I realized that it was the saddest car ride ever!  Elder Quispe, Hermana Clark and Elder Martin were all going home. We said some awful goodbyes...  Hermana Clark and Elder Quispe both headed to Fuengirola.  I will miss those two so much! They have both taught me so much! But I know they will be incredible in the real world. 

A couple hours later the bus from Alicante came in with my new companion, Hermana Portas! I realized I didn't mention anything about her last week.  She is from Venezuela and absolutely incredible!  Seriously, I have been waiting my whole mission to not get along with a companion.  But I have been spoiled.  She even lived in New Jersey for awhile (Passaic ward, Garfield). More on that later.  I got to say goodbye to my sweet Hermana Gale as she headed to Fuengirola. Ugh, so many hard goodbyes!  En fin.  The ayudantes helped us take suitcases to our piso, and off we went to work. We got to teach English class that night, my companion is incredible at it by the way. Then we got to teach noche de hogar.  So much fun! Some members did a musical number that was beautiful. 

Then weekly planning. Yay. We got to teach S finally and we talked to him about how the Church is a place we go to gain strength so that we can accomplish God's will -  not a place we should avoid if we can't be perfect. He called us on Friday just to tell us how good he felt and how excited he was to come to Church.  And he came!!! It was a miracle and we were so happy to see him! 

Friday I was so excited!  I told Hermana Portas it was going to be my first full day of work in almost two weeks because of all the craziness. Well... I spoke too soon.  During studies we got a call from the ayudantes telling us we needed to do a training in the chapel.  So there went that!  But we did get to teach J!  We read with him in the Book of Mormon and testified how this book would help him more than any other grow closer to God. 

That night we went to C.  She was so sad that Hermana Clark had left. When we got there she grabbed my arm and asked, " Where is my sister?" but we had a wonderful lesson one with her. We also got to teach Jy about the sabbath day. 

Saturday was my first full day of work!! Yahoo!! Literally all of our plans failed and our backups fell through.  So it was the perfect day!  Literally, we were both just so happy and did our best to talk to everyone we could.  There is just so much joy in just doing the small stuff right!  I am so excited to work with Hermana Portas!  She is incredible and keeps me focused and I keep her laughing.  It works well. 

Sunday we took the Sacrament!  We also had a crazy night. We basically didn't get to leave the church all day.  A couple from Europe came down to give leadership advice, so President asked that we go with the APs. I am so glad that he did.  I learned that I have been doing it wrong my whole life!  But hey, He talked about how we don't want to be the source of information, but the facilitator of information.  Giving advice creates dependence and we want to help others help themselves.  I am really excited to apply all he talked about here in the mission, and well, for forever!  The second part of the fireside was on marriage advice.  President asked that we go so we could apply it to companionship unity.  It was pretty funny having all these couples and then in the back, rows and rows of missionaries.  But it was so good!  I learned so much, but mostly it just reinforced that people will always be more important than my opinion, and being right should never be the reason for a fight. 

Today we explored a different part of the castle here in Malaga and got the best ice cream in Spain!  It was pretty good.

Alright I know that I have started my last transfer, but the thing is, it doesn't feel any different.  I'm just going to keep giving all I can, doing the best I know how until the bitter end.  I can't say it enough, that I'm grateful to be here and that the Lord has let me "handle the fine China" even though I'm often clumsy and can't do it exactly right, He helps me and continues to trust me and it is a wonder! 

Not my most inspiring week, but love you all so much! 

Hermana Smalley 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Almería, Murcia, Sevilla, Alcalá ... where do I even live?

October 3, 2016
Dear family,

What a crazy week yet again. The last 6 weeks have been so adventure filled and crazy!  I don't even know where the time has gone. But I am so full of gratitude for all that I have learned this transfer and for all that I have been able to take part in. I cannot believe it is over and that I have to say goodbye to one of my best friends this week. Hermana Clark has been absolutely incredible. She is gonna do amazing things out there in the real world. 

Anyway let's get back to the fact. Last Monday we went to a members home and had a BBQ and we had a water fight on the side of the pool. Literally the pool was mocking me the whole time. 

Tuesday morning we had a meeting with President about transfers and everything changed yet again but we had to leave early to go to a little pueblo for an eating cita with some less active members. They have recently been coming a little bit more and the change in both of them is incredible. The son has done a complete 180 change. He went from not caring at all about the church to asking us what more he could do to be better and serve Christ. It was so touching. 

After we headed to The chapel to plan trainers training with the ayudantes and we all piled into the car and headed to correlation. Joshua is awesome! He is working so hard to involve the ward in everything we are doing and he made us a cake:) so I mean. He is awesome. 

Wednesday morning we had an incredible miracle. We passed by a future that we have been trying to see for quite some time. Her name is L and she is the cutest mom you have ever seen. She let us in and we explained the Book of Mormon and gave our testimonies. We then gave her one. She gasped and asked us if we were kidding she was so happy to be able to read for herself and see if what we had said was true. When we closed with a prayer she started to cry. She felt so good, we could tell she was embarrassed for getting emotional but it was so tender for us. We then headed to an awesome district meeting where we talked about lessons of the mission and the ones going home bore their final testimonies. 

We then went to eat with R. She is a neighbor to the elders, and since not all 4 of us can go she invites us over and then passes plates into the piso of the elders. Pretty funny. Then we welcomed the Hermanas from Murica. Which you may remember are both companions of mine and I love them both. Hermana Gale and Hermana Brown. It was so good to be with both of them again! 

I got to work with Hermana Brown that night, it wasn't exactly the night we were expecting, but when is it ever? We got to go see Cynthia and talk a little bit about the Book of Mormon and read some more with her. Her son was running around screaming as usual;) what a cutie. I got to sit down with Hermana Brown and talk for a while about the mission. It will never cease to amaze me just how far we have come from those two girls who entered the MTC. the way the Lord has taught me and helped me change is incredible to me. Anyway I realized during this talk I haven't been making time for the things that matter most. Often I get so caught up in my own thoughts and what is happening in my mind that I forget to turn out and reach out. I forget to show the people I care about most how much I really do care for them. It was a good reflection point for me. That night we all got to talk a lot and just be girls for a bit. It felt pretty good. 

Thursday morning I was with my dear Hermana Gale. I love that lady. We talked a lot about life and the mission. I will be forever grateful for such an amazing friend. We then helped them on their way and headed to Bishop's house to eat with his family. Always an adventure. That night we headed to the church at 8 with all of our stuff and all piled into the car to go to Almería. And by all I mean elders: Quispe Bussell and Alverez, my compie and I. It was fun but the car ride to Almería was pretty uneventful because we were all writing our tallers. We got to Almería and stayed with Hermana Núñez and Verdejo. They are both so sweet and I was so happy to spend some time with them. Bright and early we continued on our journey to Murica. Super fun to be back there. We went so that we could do a trainers training. President had some stuff to do so we were running the meeting. We were a little nervous that without President the missionaries wouldn't really respect us. But I was so happy with the spirit that was there and we all learned so much. 

I gave a taller on being the kind of missionary that your mother thinks you are and that the mother of your companion is praying you will be. I tied that the consecration and continual repentance. It was one of those that Hermana Smalley learned more planning the taller than pretty much everyone else. I also got to see Elder Garcia and Elder Andrus. Oh my!  I am so proud of both of them and the elders they are. We finished the meeting and then hopped back into the car and went on our way to Lorca. We made some epic music videos and had a good time then slept on the way to Almería. On the way back to Malaga I got everyone in the car holding their breath through the tunnels. Oh my!  There were so many! We all almost passed out but it kept life interesting. Reading the Book of Mormon while holding my breath was a new experience. 

Anyway we got to Malaga and picked up Hermana Walter and she spent the night with us. Bright and early the next morning we headed with President to trainers training in Sevilla where we gave the same tallers over again but this time President was with us. I think the meeting went pretty well. Mom, Elder Adcock said that your letter really helped him a lot. So thanks for doing that. It was pretty sad to say goodbye to friends for the last time, but I'm grateful for the chance I had to know them.
We drove home during the showing of women's conference so I'll be making that up when I can but we got home just in time to start the first session. Wow. It was incredible!  I was actually brought to tears by how perfect the messages were for me. The Lord really poured out tender mercies on me this week. That night we went and taught L and M. They are some new investigators who are awesome. They love the word of God a lot. 

Sunday morning we got to work. You may remember how much I love working Sunday mornings because we always see so many Miracles. Well it happened again. We went to teach A and she brought her sister for us to teach who was super interested - it was awesome! Anyway, then we went to the C family to eat before conference. And we had such an awesome time talking about conference and then we got to watch the second session. During the last session of conference, C came and brought her little boy. You can only imagine one little toddler screaming through the room full of missionaries while a talk on righteous judgement was given, brought a lot of laughter. 

Today was probably one of my favorite p days. We went to Ronda! And just went adventuring. My goodness. So much fun. I love you all so much. 

Just before I go. A couple thoughts. I mentioned how much the Lord has helped me this week. A lot of lessons have been taught. One of the biggest lessons is that my whole mission I have thought that I could somehow consecrate myself. I thought that if I was just obedient enough or good enough I could do it. I have always just tried to rely on myself and that is why I have always been so hard on myself. But this week I have realized that a huge part of consecration, maybe even the key, is recognizing that there is infinite space between us and God. We cannot consecrate ourselves. But we can without rationalizing repent. And get up the next day and promise to be better and give all again. I have also learned that it is through a pure act of consecration that Christ gave us our greatest hope, the Atonement.  And it is through that act of consecration that our imperfect acts can help us become consecrated. 

I love the mission and all I have been learning. The closeness I have felt to my Savior has become a treasure to me. I hope to continue developing this relationship throughout my life. 

Love you! 
Hermana Smalley 
 from my mission.