Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Here they’ll tell you to go “fry an asparagus” rather than “go jump in a lake”

January 25, 2016
Dear family,
I feel like I always start my letters this way, but what a week. I think it's something so amazing about the mission that every week can be so different while I'm doing much of the same things. That might sound contradictory, but we live a schedule that has us doing the same things every day. But funny how the hour of personal study can be so different one from another, and it's not hard to imagine how the time out working changes every day. I feel like the mission is seriously just the most perfect environment to learn and change, we are asked to do hard things, but also given all the tools we need to do them. Everything we do is centered on Christ and his atonement that gives us hope to change. In centering our lives on that how could we not change.

I was talking to a member the other day who asked me how much time I had been here. I went for my normal answer of about 6 months. Then it hit me that I have been out 8 months. I literally almost cried. How is it the time can pass so quickly?

Anyway :) on Tuesday we had district meeting again, surprise ;) I gave a talk about inspired questions. I was super happy because it was one I needed to study. So I spent some time studying the kind of questions Christ asked and how we could emulate him. I loved how in almost every question he asked, it caused the person to reflect inward and give an answer as a commitment to him and themselves. We hopped on an early train back from Cadiz and went to eat with Susanna and her cute family. It was so much fun! They gave us the every flavored beans from Harry Potter. I lucked out and got lemon. But Hermana Peters got dirt. So that's fun ;) we also talked about Spanish phrases verse English phrases. Like how here they’ll tell you to go “fry an asparagus” rather than to “go jump in a lake”.

After that Hermana Peters and I started a companionship fast for our area. We were both pretty scared, because we both love food and we both get pretty cranky without it. But we knew our area needed our faith so we went for it! And we saw so many miracles. First off, F our investigator who lives really far away hasn't been responding so we decided to go out on a limb and go see him. He was there and ended up being able to teach him! Miracle. Wednesday morning was when it got a little harder for us.

We both were pretty tired but went out to give it our all. Around 1 we were both ready to crash because all our plans had fallen through. But we told ourselves that being grumpy about fasting is just as bad as not fasting at all. We had chosen to fast and we were grateful for the opportunity to show our diligence in the work. While we were walking we ran right into M, our #1 investigator who we ended up dropping last week because she just a wasn't progressing. We had been fasting to know what to do for her and how we could help her. And we ran right into her! We went in and got to teach her. It was awesome.

 afternoon we went to teach English class then hopped on a train to Cadiz for a worldwide conference of missionaries. Yeah. Pretty much general conference for missionaries. It was so cool. I loved thinking of cute Paige in Finland watching at 7 pm and cute Megan watching in Hawaii at 7 am and just everyone in between. They tried to get as many missionaries watching at the same time as possible. When we sang the opening hymn I kept thinking there is no way the whole world wasn't hearing our song. It was awesome! Anyway. They had one main theme: teach repentance and baptize converts. And they centered all of the talks on that. I learned just how important it is for me to be a fine tuned instrument for Heavenly Father to use to help his children. So Hermana Peters and I really worked on doing better companionship studies and following the spirit. I honestly feel like the things I learned in that conference changed my mission completely.

Thursday afternoon we got to teach Is. We have been trying really hard to teach her daughter J, who is our investigator, but we decided to really try and teach her. She told us that she has been reading the book with her daughter and always feels the spirit. And we were like what book? And she said. The only book. The one you gave us. They had been reading together even when we had t been able to teach them. We set a baptismal date with Isabel and it was wonderful!

Saturday the Elders had a baptism. So we got to bring U and Ja. It was super funny because everyone there kept asking Ja when he was finally going to get baptized. It was pretty funny. The investigator of the elders is incredible. He likes church so much that he comes to both blocks and is just so excited about the gospel.

Sunday was an amazing day. Church was a little sad because none of our investigators came. Again. But it's okay we will just try harder next week to get them exited. Anyway after church Mayka our ward missionary invited us over for lunch. She invited her cute neighbor on the spot so we could teach them. She also gave us Aroz con leche. So I was a happy camper. Then we went to go teach a new investigator. We were super excited but when we looked up her address it turns out she lives in the Elder’s area. But we had set the cita so we went running into their area to the farthest corner and some how didn't get lost (yes my map reading skills have improved) and we taught R. It was awesome she is 13 but super mature and she told us she loved One Direction. Okay both statements are true even if the order seemed a little weird. Anyway Hermana Peters and I kinda freaked and we became instant friends. We got to teach an awesome first lesson and we are pretty sad to have to pass her to the Elders but it's okay.

Anyway Sunday night, okay we had worked all week to plan this awesome family home evening for M and I. Because the both of them are just not progressing because their next step would be baptism. They know they need to but are just waiting for some kind of sign. Anyway so we set up an fhe in Sergio and Laura's home and got a lot of the young adults to come. Then right before it was supposed to start, M and I cancelled on us. We were so sad and embarrassed. We were still outside but didn't want to go in to tell the 6 RMs (returned missionaries) in there that we didn't have any investigators to come. But what happened was probably the most interesting thing of my mission. We decided to take advantage of the opportunity.

You need to understand. The leadership here in San Fernando is all really young. We had a member of the bishopric a member of the high council, our ward mission leader and some other teachers there. All in their early 20s and all RMs. So we went in and decided to make it a night about missionary work. We explained what we were seeing in our area and asked for things that worked in their missions that might help us. They gave us some great advice, and then we asked them how we could help them help us. We had an awesome discussion about what each of them could do for the work here and had them each make their own personal mission plan. We closed with an amazing quote by Parley P Pratt, one of my heroes:

When he was called on a mission to serve in Chile, after serving already for 25 years. 25 years! His response was: (this won't be perfect because I don't have it with me but pretty close) “not my will but God’s be done”. If I can spend my days proclaiming the restored gospel I will consider it an honor and a privilege. I think that it matters but very little if I earn the honor or the dishonor of man or even where I die, if only I can fight the good fight, and give my all I have all of eternity to enjoy myself.

We talked to them about how the mission really never ends and how we need them now more than ever to help this work go forth. We all left super charged and it honestly was such an amazing experience. We also left with 6 references so now we know exactly how to start the week. I don't know that anything like that has ever happened before but it was a super good experience for me to explain to the leaders of our ward what we were trying to do and have them give us their insights.

Never underestimate what the Lord has done to prepare the people surrounding you. I know that we always hear about missionary work, but seriously. We cannot do this work without the members. I have been trying as hard as I know how these last few weeks, and it just doesn't work. Help your missionaries, invite your neighbor over, it doesn't need to be weird, it won't ruin a relationship and it just could change their lives. Sister Peters’ best friend just got baptized two days ago. It was such a joy for her and her family. It made me wish I had done better when I was at home. But there is still time! :)

Anyway. I have just fallen completely in love with this area and this ward. Transfers continue to strike fear in my heart because I don't want anything to change. But I know it will all work out just how it is meant to.

This transfer has been such a learning experience for me. It has helped me learn to trust in Gods timing. And also trust more in his love for me. We have been struggling to see the fruits of our labors here, and as hard as that has been for me, I know it has been harder on my companion. Wondering if we are doing something wrong to prevent us from receiving revelation for our investigators, wondering if we aren't working hard enough to find more people. And Satan is still throwing those thoughts around in our heads, but we have been keeping them from sinking into our hearts. Because we know God’s love is real and that he will help us do all we need to, as long as we work and trust in him. We have learned to accept God’s timing with the progress of his children and just be ready and willing to do all that he asked just like the savior was. It has been amazing to see just how easy it can be to stay happy even when it's all going wrong, if you can just keep it in perspective and think, " man, Heavenly Father trusts me a whole lot to send a trial like this, and if I get through it well, I am going to be so much better."

I know that this gospel is true, I know that it blesses the lives of all who will listen. Sometimes when we walk down the streets and no one will listen or people make fun of us it is easy to lose heart and get sad. But Hermana Peters told me once that these people don't even know how lucky they are to have representatives of Christ walking down the streets. Not to make us prideful of course but rather to help us remember that our talking to someone is probably the most important thing that will happen to them all day, they might not know it, but we do. So we should never shy away from it!

Love you all,
Hermana Smalley

The week our attitude changed

Jan 18, 2016
Dear family,

This week looking back Hermana Peters and I realized that we had pretty much the same week this week as last week but our attitudes completely changed. I am sure I let on last week that it was kinda a rough week. And the situation hasn't changed much as far as number of lessons taught or anything, but we decided from the beginning of the week that we really wanted to focus on talking with everyone. But not just doing robotic contacts. And we did and just by turning out just that little bit everything changed. We were happier and had so much more hope about finding. It has been a good week lemme tell you about it :)

On Monday we had the awesome opportunity to be with President and Hermana Anderson. Oh my, it was wonderful. So we had to be there to open the chapel right at the beginning of the day. So we spent p-day there just hanging around all the missionaries and being with Hermana Anderson. It was honestly so good to just talk with her again. I haven't had the chance since we were in Malaga. My interview with President went really well, I mean I passed so I get to stay ;) sometimes I have so much to say that I just stress myself out ;) but President just laughed about how stressed I was and we had a nice chat. He talked to me about not missing the mark on consecration. How sometimes we demand more of ourselves than the Lord does. It honestly was just so good to sit with him and talk for a while.
Tuesday morning we had to come open the chapel again for President. We were hoping to get there early enough and as we were walking we turned and saw President and Hermana Anderson walking across the street from us. We got there together and Hermana Peters and I got to do companionship study with Hermana Anderson. That was super fun and just a little scary ;) Then off we went to Cadiz for district meeting. We had a really great one about setting goals and then making plans to follow through on those goals. I know it sounds silly but it was a big learning experience for me. I have set goals before obviously but thinking about the plans to make those goals happen was something I feel like I didn't understand before. Okay I know that sounds dumb. But I had always just thought that if I had enough faith and was obedient it would just work out ;) but now I am going to work on making super good plans :) ¡bautismos por 12 habrá!
This week we got to teach Ir and her mother! It was a miracle. Ir called us and said that she was in a bar with her mom waiting for us. Now okay, bars here are like cafes in the states. So yeah we went and got to teach her. It was awesome, we just aren't really sure how to help her progress. She knows everything but it almost sounds like she is waiting for her mom to be healed from cancer as her answer. But we will just keep trying. M, our other investigator who is ready to get baptized we have ended up giving her some space.

On Wednesday we went to Burger King with Rogelio because he loves Burger King. He's my Spanish grandpa. And bought us so much food we wanted to die but it's okay. Anyway they started telling us how church got started here in San Fernando. Apparently the missionaries had worked in Cadiz for two years without a single baptism. So yeah tried San Fernando. When they got here they met young Rogelio on the sidewalk. He invited them over, and he and his wife were so touched by the message of eternal families they were baptized. Then their hope became the church in San Fernando. Apparently in one room the elders taught. In another room baptismal interviews were being given and then there was a line going out the door for lessons to be given. How incredible is that! And that is how our cute little ward got started. Through the baptism of these two incredible people. They owned a company and gave The Book of Mormon to all their employees. And it all rolled forward from there.
This week we were super excited to teach a new investigator J. He told us to come to his work so he could visit with us on break so off we went. When we got there he told us that really unless we needed help finding a piso he didn't have time for us. Well we were a little discouraged but kept working and at the end of the day we ran into him on his way home. And he basically said. You are still out? What is it you do exactly? We ended up getting to teach him a great lesson and he had so many questions it was awesome.
We had a meal with the Garcia family this week as well and they told us their conversion story. They talked about the days when the church was first getting started here and then turned to us and said. Hermanas it can happen again. And we talked about how they could help us and all we needed to do it was awesome. It has been so humbling to hear all that these people went through to get the church started here. Especially where other churches have such a tight hold, it was incredibly hard. Many people like Paco were disowned when they left on missions. Or lost jobs, homes, ect. but the families they have raised here are beautiful and thriving. And their children are beginning to take over the responsibility. It is amazing to watch. I just finished reading our heritage from the missionary library. I was impressed by the amazing people that started the church in the world. Their strength and faith. And yet I look around me and see people who went through similar things to start the church. It is amazing to see.
We had correlation with David again and we had to tell him we have been working hard, but still had no investigators with a baptismal date. And he could tell we were embarrassed about it. He looked at us and said. Oh Hermanas it is fine. I want to tell you about my black transfer. He served in England and got transferred to open an area, train, and be a district leader all in the same area. He told us how he had never worked so hard in his life but they didn't have a single investigator. They finally had someone with a date. And he got transferred. I took a hard look at my area and realized we don't have it so bad ;) not so bad at all.
We got to teach a cute new family this week, they invited us in only for 10 min because they didn't have much time, but we ended up staying for 45 because they asked us so many questions. I am really excited to see how it goes. Their father is Muslim and their mother is Christian. It's a really interesting dynamic I haven't seen before.
Sunday was wonderful as normal. That night there was a conference worldwide for all of the young adults. Not something we would normally go to, but M wanted to go so we went with her. I was again struck as I sat in the chapel with about 20 youth from the 4 surrounding cities how incredible it was that they were there. 21-25 year olds taking the time out of their night to come listen to an apostle. It is just incredible to see what the church does for young people. The difference is so marked. I loved the conference. It was perfect for Maria. But we were sad to see her on her phone during some of the most beautiful parts. Now I realized how Heavenly Father must feel every time I pulled out my phone during church. Just as Hermana Peters and I wanted to scream TURN OFF THE DANG PHONE. Heavenly Father was probably doing the same to me. So yeah I get it now. Amazing the perspective you get from the mission.
I want to learn how to be “truly desperate” (as Sister Nelson said in her talk) to be the person God wants me to be. I feel like I do have that desperation but the kind of desperation that leads to action and change is what I need. Not the kind that just lets you sit there feeling sorry for how far you still have to go. President Nelson also taught me to expect to be asked to do the impossible, and expect to achieve it if you are aligned with God. Helping someone get baptized might seem impossible. But it can happen if we are worthy.
Anyway. This week has been awesome. Hermana Peters and I are both cringing because we know transfers are coming up soon and neither of us are ready to leave the other. But we just need to enjoy the time we have now and love it. Talking to Hermana Anderson made me realized just how lucky the two of us were during the holidays. We had such a fun time being together and doing things that we honestly had the best Christmas ever. But apparently mission-wide people were really sad and not doing well. I'm just so blessed to be here with her. She is like my best friend. I look at my companions. Hermana Rocha, Hermana Gallegos, Hermana Filer, Hermana Perez. Hermana Esplin and now Hermana Peters and I am just so grateful for each one of them. The examples they are and the things they have taught me. They have become my best friends and we have laughed so so much together.
You are the best! Love, Hermana Smalley

 The mission is wonderful :) I'm learning so much. Sometimes I can't believe how lucky I am to be here in Spain I have to do a double check. Right. I live in Spain. Everyone here speaks Spanish. I speak Spanish. Looking down at my chapa I just smile and am so grateful.

El día de los reyes

January 11, 2016 
Dearest family,

First off. Yes. I did eat the grapes. Your lack of confidence is insulting. Just kidding you know I love you  ;) but really. I did eat them.

This week has been a huge learning experience for Hermana Peters and I. It has been a hard one. I will say that it has been one of the hardest I have had yet. But we also laughed a lot, learned a lot and kept on trying. With that wonderful preface lets get started.

 we honestly just took the day super slow and played the piano in the chapel. Hermana Peters has been trying to teach me, I'm still rhythmically challenged, but learning.

Tuesday we started to see the beginning of the festivities. Bands marched around the streets playing songs to let everyone know that the three kings were following them. This brought hoards of children running catching the candy that was thrown. We got to have a lesson with U that day. She is a less active member who has been struggling recently with her health. But as we have come and taught her she has talked about how she knows something is missing from her life. It was such a miracle that we were able to teach her that day and give her a little comfort in her hard situation. Tuesday night was really interesting because it was basically like Christmas Eve. There was a huge parade in the center of San Fernando where the three kings came with candy for everyone, but Hermana Peters and I were out on other streets so we missed it. But it was funny because we managed to teach one person that night, and when we went in, the streets were full of people, and in the 30 min we were inside they all went home because we came out and the streets were empty!

Speaking of that one lesson, we got to teach an old investigator who's name is Man. His wife passed away recently and he lives alone now. We taught a lesson in the doorway and as I started to explain the Book of Mormon and offer him one, he walked away. We were both a little confused, but then he came back with a really old Book of Mormon. Turns out his wife was reading it before she died. I felt the spirit so strongly as if she was actually there with us as we invited him to explore the truths his wife had been. He accepted, saying that he was too old to change, but he wanted to feel close to her again so he would. I know there is power in the Book of Mormon and I know he will feel it as he reads. The good news of the gospel is that it never is too late for anyone, and I am sure that his sweet wife will be gently prompting him as he begins this path.

Later that night we were walking and a cute bakery was selling Rascón de Reyes. A traditional kings day dessert. And there was a lady giving out free samples. We happily accepted and kept on our way. It was funny how much that lifted our spirits. The rest of the night was spent walking from house to house trying to talk to people. We didn't have much success, but we learned how to work together better in our teaching. Learning from the power of two testimonies is always better than just one.

Wednesday morning was actually pretty magical, so king’s day is awesome. During the night the three kings come and give the children presents they set them up in their rooms or in the living room and as the children wake up they just go crazy with joy at what the kings brought. It was really fun to be doing our studies and hear from the pizos surrounding us shouts of joy from little kids. When we went out on the streets to work that morning there were 2 people out. Us ;) but we still tried to work. People were really surprised to see us show up to their homes, they would ask us, do you know what day it is!? Or just laugh at us silly Americans ;) but it honestly was fun to be out trying to work and talk to people as they celebrated the gifts given to the Savior. That afternoon we ate more Rascón with U and J. Normally in a Rascón there is a bean and a little king doll hidden inside. The person who finds the king is king for a day and the person who finds the bean has to pay for the Rascón the next year. Hermana Peters got the king! I just got a nice piece of Rascón ;)

Then we went to the chapel and taught English to E. Who is from Spain but is actually going to school in Russia. He is really cool, but has no interest in the church. But we won't let him get away that easily. We finished the night with our bishop, he was really kind to us and gave us.... More Rascón ;) a whole one to take home. I don't know what we are going to do with it. But hey :) our bishop is really wonderful and takes his calling very seriously. It is as if every member here is one of his children. I love it.

Thursday we had an awesome weekly planning. We really got excited about the plans that we made and are so ready to attack this next week. We then went to Ms' home and ate the most Spanish meal of paella and croketas :) then they gave us three or four desserts. Christmas here is killing me.

We then went and taught a less active member who we had never met. She invited us in and let us sit down. We talked to her and she told us about how she liked her experience with the church but she would rather to be free to do as she chooses. This really didn't make sense to me. Because I have learned on my mission that being truly free only comes by living the gospel of Jesus Christ. And the Lord has blessed us with the organization of a church to do so more fully.

I am so grateful that through my Savior I truly can be made free. Agency is a precious gift that we have been given, but honestly the best thing we can do with our agency is just give it right back and do His will. I explained to her my thoughts and she thanked us for the spirit we had brought but told us in all honesty she had no desire to change even if we were right. Hermana Peters and I were a little desperate trying to get through to her. But in the end we couldn't change her perspective. We left a little discouraged and spent the night walking from house to house trying to talk to anyone. But from it we learned just how powerful our own agency is. And we built a firmer resolve to stay true to the light we have and not regress.

This week with zone conference we had the opportunity to give a talk. It was the first talk Hermana Peters and I have given in a zone conference. So we were both pretty nervous. But we were able to study a lot about commitments and how to effectively give them. It was honestly a huge learning experience for me. I hope those in our zone learned something because I know that I did: I realized just how important commitments are.

If you look at what we want as missionaries, what we really want is the salvation of souls. And that can seem like a huge mountain. But we cannot exactly grab our investigators and drag them up the mountain of salvation. It just doesn't work like that. Our job as missionaries is to help them take small steps of faith until they develop the spiritual strength necessary to do it on their own. Elder Nelson said something I loved in his first general conference talk, "Men finally climbed Mount Everest, not by standing at its base in consuming awe, but by shouldering their packs and by placing one foot in front of another." I feel often like there is no way I can help others climb a mountain I myself struggle with. And yet the way we can help them is through commitments, commitments we ourselves have had to make and keep, so they can put one foot in front of the other and start. And through our honest and pure testimonies they can gain the courage to begin. Anyway I could go on but I'll try to keep it short.

The Other thing that I really felt strongly about in the commitment process was giving testimony. Sometimes as missionaries we bear testimony so often it's like we fall into a pattern, and honestly I feel like sometimes we as members do this. But what a sacred opportunity we have to share this knowledge we have fought for through our own climb with others. I hope we never share a truth given to us through the spirit in a spirit of levity. I hope we always put power behind the simple words “I know”, because there is power there.

Last week when we were still teaching C I was bearing my testimony of the Book of Mormon to him, and I started to tell him that I knew through the power of the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon was true, I meant the words but I don’t know that I was really feeling them.  He stopped me and told me to be careful, because at judgement day we will be judged by the words we speak. And I looked him in the eye and said that it was my privilege to be there and testify of this book. And that I know I would be judged by my words, and with that knowledge I would state again and keep declaring my knowledge that the Book of Mormon was true. He didn't have much to say after that. And that was fine because I feel like it was more of a powerful experience for me than for him.

The rest of zone meeting we talked about our goals for the year and how if we consecrate ourselves we would be able to achieve our area goals which would all come together to make the mission goal of 832 baptisms. It was incredible to me that we set that goal as a mission and when adding up the goals of all the stakes in the mission. The number they had set was 831. I know the Lord was inspiring all of us as we set our goals this week.

Saturday was the culmination of our week. Our investigator who was supposed to get baptized wouldn't answer us, we got dropped by two very promising investigators and did not teach a single lesson until the last hour of the day when we taught Ch. It was a hard day. But we learned how to push through and just keep going. We learned that it was okay if we were having a hard day because there are thousands of missionaries working and over all the Lord’s team is winning. And the gospel of Jesus Christ is true. So we can't get too sad.

Sunday was wonderful as always. Taking the sacrament is such a privilege. And we also sang my favorite hymn in the Spanish hymn book. It's called "el fin se acerca" or the end is close. And most missionaries don't sing it because they think the end of my mission! No! But these are the words in English. I love them.

The end is close, and there is little time
You should proclaim that which God commanded you
Leave then brothers, with faith proclaiming
That God has already founded his kingdom anew

Fulfill the work that you have accepted
Follow the model he lord gave you
The present pains, as much as they weigh now
You will have joy in the end it better times

Oh what does it matter to you the hate of the world
God will protect you, you have the truth
And God promises you eternal life if you are always faithful
And to him listen

Be firm, you will be tested brothers
If the just win, Satan will lose
More Christ will give to the just protection
If we are faithful to him he will save us

 So that was probably an awful translation but you got it. I love it.

Sunday night finished with the call from e ayudantes congratulating us on our baptism. What. Turns out Hermana Smalley accidentally reported a baptism she didn't get. After getting jokingly reprimanded for lying about numbers they asked about the area and such. It was just super funny in light of the week we had that they called to congratulate us.

Anyway sorry for the long one. I love you all so much and I truly love the mission and all that I am learning.

Hermana Smalley

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

When we listen to the spirit we will find miracles

January 4, 2016
Dear family,
Well Happy New Year I cannot believe that it is already 2016. That is incredibly crazy but Hermana Peters and I are so excited for the New Year and all the adventures that lie ahead.

Alright I am going to tell you about two less active members we are teaching. Their names are T and S. They are both in wheelchairs and are probably the silliest people you ever have met. I honestly am without words to try and describe them to you. But we go over there on Mondays and help around the house and teach. Well the moral of this story is that they finally fulfilled the commitment we gave them and read the story that we left them! Hermana Peters and I were so excited. And we had an amazing talk about Enos. 

Tuesday morning we had district meeting. Elder Mitchell gave an awesome talk about charity. I have realized that I really need to work on charity. He asked us to compare the fruits of a missionary who works with charity and one who just goes through the motions. I realized that charity is really one of the things I need to work on developing so that I can really give my all to this work. 

Tuesday night we really had no success, but that doesn't mean we stopped looking. We had one member lesson planned, her name is M and she has one cute daughter A. Just walking into her home gave me so much energy. The spirit was so prevalent. We got to sit down and share a quick message about God always being there to support her in her trials. It was such a blessing to hear her sweet testimony. As missionaries we try to go and give strength to the members, but I often feel as if we don't give them half of what they give us. To see their families and hear their testimonies gives us the strength to keep going. It's incredible how those 30 min. carry us through for the rest of the night. 

I don't know if any of you remember in New Jersey, there was an Elder who our family was pretty close with. Granted I don't remember much but from what I do remember he seemed like a stellar Elder. The first time they came over it was because they had just knocked on Stephanie's door, and they were passing by and came to tell us about it. We invited them in and the Elder just stopped in the doorway. We all kinda stopped and watched him. And he looked up and with tears in his eyes told us how he was the only member in his family, and in our home he felt the spirit so strongly, stronger than he had in a home. I remember being puzzled by that. Our home was just a house. What was he talking about? But now I understand. As missionaries we go through so many doors. We sit in so many living rooms and talk to so many people. When we enter a members home there is a marked difference. I honestly am so grateful for the short time we get to spend with members. 

Wednesday we went over to M's house. I am not sure what I have told you about M. But she is 17 and is so ready to get baptized. She just hasn't told her parents yet. When we got there Mi (her mom) was there and invited us in. M really wants her mother to get baptized with her. Mi is honestly so cute, and we got to have an awesome lesson with her before her daughter came home. Then Maria came home and we got to teach her as well. So hopefully we will be having a nice family baptism soon :) 

That afternoon we met C who is from Nigeria, he was an old investigator and I love love love teaching people from Nigeria. I was thinking about Ma from Malaga the whole way there. Well one thing that his registro did not include was that he is actually a preacher. It was super interesting, because he started teaching us, and we were chuckling because we knew he wasn't going to change our minds, and we tried to teach him and he chuckled because he knew we weren't going to change his mind. But we talked about the Book of Mormon and he invited us over to eat later in the week. 

We also contacted a reference from the Elders. His name is F and he is from Cuba. I kinda flipped because I love Cubans so so much. Okay truth of the matter is I love everyone ;) but there will always be a special part of my heart for Cubans. But funny story. Because of kings day there are big stars up around the cities. And we were in a part of San Fernando that we had never been, and I kid you not we followed a star to his Pizo. It led us right there. It was a Christmas miracle. 

We taught a lot of old investigators this week and one of them was Ib she invited us over to try some bread from Morocco. It was awesome, but she told us right up front she wasn't going to convert. But we will see ;) it has been a little interesting this week because all of these investigators just seemed to think the missionaries were there to be their friends but it's all good we are their friends... But more importantly we need to be teaching. 

Anyway normally New Year’s Eve we are allowed to pass the New Year in the home of a member, but President sent out an email and told us he felt very strongly we needed to be in our pizos at the normal hour. He asked us to work that night until we didn't feel effective or we started bothering people.  So we canceled our plans and tried to do as much as we could. At 8 we had finished our plans for the night. We were at the door of our Pizo, but both of us felt like there was something more we needed to do. I had the thought to visit one more investigator so off we went. He wasn't home. Confused we turned back for home. Hermana Peters said, "We are not going inside until we talk to one more person!" There was a lady on a bench and we contacted her. She invited us to sit down and teach a lesson. We gave her a Book of Mormon and got her information and taught the first lesson. It was the perfect way to finish 2015. God is so aware of us and where we need to be. And when we listen to the spirit we will find miracles. 

New Year’s night we did a reflection on our work of the year, I feel so blessed that God has allowed me to just hit the ground running and work from the start. My goal is to hold onto that and develop it more. I don't want to fizzle out, but keep going strong. 

Then we made cinnamon rolls, no they weren't as good as moms and we almost burned down our house. But they were yummy :) then at midnight we ate 12 grapes for the new year and fell asleep to the fireworks of all the parties ;) I couldn't believe it but our ward had a party that started at 1 am and went till 6 am. And that was normal. So cool :) obviously we were sleeping ;)  

Friday morning we did weekly planning with a special area planning where we set goals for the area for the year. Then we went and ate with Gema and her cute family. And we played the game "cara splash" you can see the video. But basically I lost really badly ;) 

Saturday we got to take one of our investigators to the chapel and do a tour and teach a lesson. When we do the tours we really want them to have a spiritual experience in the font, and in the sacrament room. And with Ma it worked so well. The spirit was so strong and we invited her to be baptized and she laughed and said “really I can?” It was such a perfect moment. We had a 10 min correlation with David and then ran to get our investigator Ir. Ir is 20 and incredible. Her mother has cancer, and she has been basically been taking care of her alone. But she is the cutest person, we taught her in Chani’s home. Chani is basically like everyone's grandmother and the sweetest old lady. We taught Ir the plan of salvation. She loved it and told us how she can see how much her life has been changing since she found the church. It was perfect. 

We finished the night with an investigator that we have been struggling to get to come to church. We went and shared 1 Nephi 3:7 and to put it in Hermana Peters words, "if Nephi can build a boat, you can come to church" it was the funniest moment. 

Sunday was a little rough. We were later because we were supposed to walk with an investigator who didn't show up. But we made the sacrament. Yay! When we came rushing it the first counselor busted up laughing. Because there are only 10 people there at the beginning of church. Anyway none of our investigators came. That was rough. But it's okay next week. Sunday night the ward had an activity where all the primary kids put on a nativity and it was adorable. They did a knock off of inside out but with faith as one of the emotions. Loved it.

On Monday I had the opportunity to finish the Book of Mormon for the first time in Spanish. I am so grateful for the opportunity we had to complete this "challenge" as a mission. When I first started I was very impressed by the testimonies of the 3 and the 8 witnesses. Right from the beginning I wanted to add my own witness right next to theirs of the divinity and the veracity of this book. I determined that once I finished the book I would put in the space under the testimony of the 8 witnesses a heading, "el testimonio de un testigo" and while I was reading the book I was determined to build a testimony worth writing. Upon finishing I went to write my testimony and I realized that I don't have an experience that completely changed my life, or a testimony very eloquent of the Book of Mormon. I honestly cannot say any more than has already been said, and it has been said in much better words than mine, but what I do have is a simple testimony that I know and feel with my whole heart.
I never really doubted that the men like Nephi and the brother of Jared were real people, who wrote their experiences for our benefit. It was something I always believed. And logically for those men to be real, the book has to be a real record, translated by the power of God. But my testimony goes deeper than just that logical understanding. When I read the Book of Mormon, I feel a peace and a love in my heart and I know such feelings come from God. When I read the Book of Mormon I learn more about the Savior, it is like my mind is filled with clarity and I understand things more every time, and I know that such learning comes from God. When I read the Book of Mormon I find my own experiences of prayer and repentance reflected back at me in the experiences of others. I know that such experiences come from God. And with that knowledge I know that a book that causes these things, must also come from God. So now in my Book of Mormon, there is a small testimony of the one witness written, and I guess for my life and the life of my family, that is the most important one.  
I was quite sad to hear about the passing of great grandfather Erb. I won't lie and tell you that we ever had an amazing relationship, but he is the 2nd of my grandparents that have passed away while I have been serving, and I can't help but smile when I think of my stubborn and sometimes very cranky great grandfather in the spirit world coming face to face with my spunky and equally stubborn grandmother Smalley and the following missionary discussions. I know that this plan is a perfect one, and that Heavenly Father will never give up on anyone. I cannot imagine going through this life without the peace that comes from understanding the plan of salvation. And I am eternally grateful that I have been raised in a family that taught me from a small age what it was. I so desperately want to give that to others.
I love you all so much and hope that you have the best week! 

Love Hermana Smalley

The best of Christmases

December 28, 2015 
Dearest family,
Wow it has just been the craziest of weeks. Yet again I cannot believe that a whole week has gone by.

Tuesday we had a special zone conference in Sevilla. We we all woke up early and traveled there. And at the train station in Sevilla I was greeted by the happiest of reunions. I met up with my old district in Malaga. Hermana Esplin and I just laughed and gave each other the biggest hug you ever did see Elder Jenkins and Elder Adcock filled me in on all the funny things Obispo Padilla had done and Elder Tenorio filled me in on all the fun things Elder Adcock and Jenkins had done. I was seriously just like a family reunion. Then we all headed to the stake center and got to talk to more long lost friends. President got there with the Ayudantes and there were even more hellos. I was just a pretty happy camper. Then we had a talent show. Um Hermana Esplin started by singing something and it was incredible. Elder Jenkins and Adcock also sang. Seriously it was just super funny and full of laugher. It ended with a handstand contest that president ended up joining in :)

Then we all walked to a nearby super market and did a flash mob and sang Christmas carols. It was actually super fun then we all went back to the chapel for the actual conference. We are saying goodbye to some amazing missionaries this transfer and they all got up to bear their testimonies. Elder Durrant is going home and he said something that really impacted me, he said that there is no such thing as someone who was born to be a missionary. There is no one who is just naturally good at it. Some people just have more confidence. Not in themselves but in the lord than others. That really struck me because I have found myself talking about some of the best missionaries I have ever met, like Elder Merrill Elder Johnson and Hermana Eyring, as just born to be missionaries. But when Elder Durrant said that it made me realize we all have the potential to be amazing missionaries, but some of us just don't have the confidence in the lord to put everything out there. I want to be that way :)

President also spoke on a subject that really touched me. He talked to us about how just for this Christmas season we should lay aside all our self-doubt. All of our criticism and just allow ourselves to feel the love God has for each of us. It has been a problem in our mission, this perfectionism. Where we all just feel too weak to do everything right. Or just at we can never measure up. And president got up and just shared his deep love and respect for each of us and pleaded with us to accept the gift that we offer to others for ourselves. Let ourselves feel his abiding love for each of us and allow it to make us better. It was honestly something that I really needed.

Cute Hermana Anderson was in the states this week for her son’s wedding and she brought us all back Spain Malaga mission temple recommend holders they are amazing! After the conference we all are food and loved it;)
Then all of the missionaries going to Cadiz had about 4 hours before our train left. I asked the zone leaders in Sevilla what we could do to help them out in their area, they told us to just enjoy ourselves and see Sevilla. And Hermana Peters and I decided that wasn't the best use of time;) so we did in fact enjoy ourselves and went to some super touristy spots ... To contact;) we went to a place called plaza de España. I told you guys on the call it is where they filmed star wars it honestly took my breath away. So beautiful. We also met some people from the states which was awesome!

One long train ride home, and night of sleep later it was Wednesday :)

We literally did so much work on Wednesday just because it was one of our only full days of work and we wanted to make the most of the week. We finished the night with our cute investigator iris. She is so ready to be baptized but is just still holding out for a sure answer. We are working with her and she has been having amazing experiences with prayer. So sorry that wasn't too informative. But Wednesday was cool!

Turns out Christmas Eve no one really wants to meet with the missionaries ;) but we went out and worked the morning anyway ;) then we went home and did weekly planning. And that finished our plans! Weird. So we made sugar cookies and hand cut them into fun Christmas shapes :) then we met up with the Elders at the chapel and watched joy to the world. It was so Christmassy! We just all felt the spirit so strong. Then we spent Christmas Eve with some amazing members. I know I already told mom and dad this story, but Christmas Eve we had to be in bed at 11. So we ended up leaving the members home late. It was 10:50. We were 15 minutes from home. But we HAD to get home on time. So we ran home and made it to Pizo in 5 min. Yeah impressive ;) we ripped open our Christmas PJs and were in bed panting at 11 on the dot. Christmas miracle.

Christmas morning president let us sleep in an extra hour :) yay they we woke up and opened presents and made French toast and frosted sugar cookies! We then headed to Cadiz and hung out with the other missionaries there. We did a white elephant and all sorts of fun Christmas things. Then I got to call all of you! I'm sorry it was crazy but it was so good to see you all! I'm sorry we could t do it all together but it was really nice to talk to you individually :)

Saturday was haha well a rough day ;) a lot of things didn't go according to plan, but we endured to the end and worked ever minuet of the day :) let’s just put it this way. We had 10 lessons planned and taught 3 and one of the three was not planned ;) but we were doing a random door contact and right before the door opens I look over and see Hermana Peters shove huge thing of chocolate into her mouth. I died laughing and when the guy came we were both bright red and Hermana Peters had a mouth full of chocolate. This is why I love her.

Sunday was wonderful as usual. We talked with Maria and she wants to follow through with her date for this Saturday. Which means first investigator baptism here in the new chapel! We are super excited. But we might need to move it back a week just for logistics :)

We taught our cute U after church. Hermana Peters asked her what it meant to her that we had prophets today. She was so funny and said “what do crokketas (super yummy food here) have to do with anything?” I never realized that profetas and croketas do sound similar :)

We finished the night with a noche de Hogar with the jas. It was a super good time :) I love this ward!
I love you all so much. I am forever grateful for this time I have in my mission. I am learning so much as a serve my savior. I am not perfect at all. But every day I try to give my all :)

Enjoy the rest of the year!

Hermana Smalley