Sunday, March 20, 2016

It was my most awkward fatal contact ever

March 14, 2016
Dearest family,

Can I just say how much I love you all and how dear each of you are to me. Just know that even if I don't have time to respond and share all my love that with each of your letters I laugh and cry and basically make a fool of myself. Elder Jenkins always used to say, "I love reading emails with Hermana Smalley is because it's like I have two families" so just know I annoy everyone but I love reading them ;)

As I said in the title this week seriously just flew by. I really have just come to adore this place and these people. I am so grateful to be here in San Fernando working with these incredible people. I know this transfer just started but the changes lurk on the horizon making me want to work as hard as I can here while I still can! It's been an interesting thing, how here I have worked so much with the members and seen so much desire from them that has made me want to give even more to this work, and yet we still haven't seen much success where as in other areas working on our own we did with not nearly as much effort. But I can tell you that I have learned more here than anywhere else. And here to see someone enter the waters of baptism would be the greatest thing imaginable, funny how when you work for something more it brings more value.

Random, let's get started.

Monday we got to meet with Y again. And she told us how much she has loved what she was reading in the Book of Mormon. It was incredible and we got to teach about the plan of salvation and we just felt the spirit super-duper strong. The more we teach her the more I am convinced that Heavenly Father wants that lady on his team. Because we were walking past her and I felt so strongly we needed to contact her we turned back. I already told you it was my most awkward fatal contact ever. But she let us in and the spirit has just been so strong every lesson. It has left me a little in awe.

Tuesday I missed my first train in Spain. Ugh I was so mad. I've never missed one before and then the train station went and changed the schedule we missed the train by two minutes thinking we were there 10 min early. Livid. All of my companions know that trains stress me out and I always freak out so we won't be late, then it happened. Had to happen sometime I guess.  So anyway we had to wait an hour and were an hour late to district meeting. Poor Elder Mitchell already had to end early because we had an eating cita. So basically we cut his time in half and did district meeting express. So random funny story. Because we missed the train the tickets we bought didn't work, but we double checked with a worker and he said it should be fine. Okay so we trusted. Well to get off the train in Cadiz there is a gate you have to put your ticket through for it to open. Well it rejected our ticket. And there was no one there to help. Next thing I know, Hermana Cole shimmied through the gap in the gate and started walking away. Not wanting to be left alone I did the same. Only to look back and see security cameras... If I come home next week you will know it was Hermana Coles fault. What a great trainer I know ;)

Tuesday night we sat down with our bishop and talked with him about all of our investigators and he was really excited about it, and also forbade us to go back to one of our investigators. If I have learned one thing on my mission it is that I don't like being told not to do something especially with my investigators. But Heavenly Father has helped me so much to be humble enough to accept and follow through on council. Here the members are pretty protective of the Hermanas. They don't want us going certain places for our safety, not realizing that we go there on a daily basis and it's fine. But hey, it's that whole pride thing that I'm kicking in the butt, not to think "yeah I'm a Hermana and I do what I want and go where I want. We can handle it!" But say instead," okay, you know this town better than we do and need all the help we can get"

Wednesday morning we met with our friend G. We taught him in a park just the standard lesson zero. But we met him Friday morning in the chapel with a member. Wow. It was incredible. He curious about us, and had found some anti-Mormon material and has a lot of questions about it. Well turns out, some members there doing family history and were more than happy to sit down and talk with him and us. Spanish people have a way of talking that can be kinda hard if you aren't used to it. Basically talking over people isn't rude at all, so whoever talks loudest and longest gets to talk. Well our members won. And he left "astonished" at all he had learned about our church. Members are so key. And they were so excited after the lesson!

Wednesday night we had classes de ingles. It was pretty good. We had an awesome turnout and just has a lot of fun teaching about food. Afterwards the JAS [young adults group] had planned a noche de Hogar for all of the investigators to come and the JAS leader Carlos had invited us of course. So we invited Ir and went with her. It was so so fun. We played jungle speed and Hermana Cole and I lost horribly. There was no mercy for us. But the one time Hermana Cole cleanly grabbed the totem she stood up and did a victory dance. It was pretty funny, I got into a fight twice for the totem and had to give in because ... you know, I’m a missionary.

Friday we had correlation with David and got to arrange some stuff for next week. It was pretty exciting! He has been asking us to work on including the members more in the work so it has become a companionship goal for us and it has been working, yay!

We got to teach Ir that night, which was so awesome. She comes in and starts dancing telling us that her mother’s cancer tests came back super low and that everything is coming together incredibly! We all did a happy dance and just cried a little bit. When I saw President Morales the next day he came straight over to us to ask about Ir and he started crying when we told him. He is an incredible man. Anyway we had a super spiritual lesson with Ir. Because we sat down and Hermana Cole and I both felt that we shouldn't teach the lesson we had planned. But that brings up the question: What do we teach? We said an opening prayer and just started talking about faith trying to listen for the spirit. Well what do you know, the spirit told us what she needed to hear and we had an incredible lesson.

Oh yeah. then I turned 20! Strange, to be honest I woke up and just felt strange. Because I didn't know what to do. The day everyone says is about you, and I was still waking up early ;) didn't quite fit. Don't worry, I got up early and did everything, and quickly snapped out of it and realized that the date didn't matter. This day was no more about me than any other day. What an amazing way to spend said day: serving others. Hermana Cole made me breakfast and then off we went. We taught J right off the bat. It was an interesting lesson ;) We then went over to T’s house to help her keep moving in and cleaning. Poor thing, she’s working all the time, her kids just got chicken pox, and she still isn't even moved into the house. Her husband who is less active was there and we got to have some really great conversation with him.

On Monday we bought food for a birthday meal, but V (RM, mom is our investigator) invited us over to eat on Saturday. So we ate a birthday meal on Friday. Well then we called on Friday to confirm it he asked if we could do it next week. And cute Hermana Cole hung up the phone and yelled, "no! No problem at all! You just ruined everything!" (She was a little stressed about the birthday thing ;)) also random funny story. At the beginning of the mission one of the most stressful things is talking to people on the phone. Because you don't speak that well and it's so hard to hear. So figuring Victor would be a safe phone call for Hermana Cole to keep practicing she made the call (a. Member b. Speaks perfect English if Things get crazy) well right at the end of the call Hermana Cole went to hang up thinking it was over. Only to realize he was still talking. So she quickly picked up the phone again not knowing what he had just said and said in the creepiest whisper, "Siempre" which means always. Turns out he had asked us if we needed him for anything. We had a good laugh about that. Hermana Cole was so so embarrassed. Oh the dumb things we say over the phone.

During media dia we ate a revised birthday meal and ate cake on the roof. Here cake is a little weird so we bought a pound cake. It worked out super well :) then that night we had the best birthday present ever stake conference! A. President Morales spoke B. President Anderson was there C. A member of the 70 spoke. So great!

One thing that really struck me during the conference was when the 70 asked all of the people who were baptized after the age of 8 to raise their hands. Ask I looked around I realized almost every hand was raised including those of fellow missionaries. My eyes were drawn to two of our JAS [young Adults] who both recently came home from their missions. To make this easier I'll just throw in some fake names Carl joined the church first and then brought Vince into the church. Both of them are the only converts in their families. Carl's parents told him he couldn't go in a mission until he finished college thinking that would stop him from going, but he finished at 24 and left, same story with Vince. When they came home from their missions their families had no idea of the sacrifices or the experience they had just gone through. Both of them are serving on the high council in the stake. And I was just struck by the strength of these two coming on a Saturday night to hear the word of God. As they were sitting there alone Vince put his arm around Carl, and not to be melodramatic but I realized that these two friends had helped each other through the hard transition it can be into the church being each other’s family. Just another example of how impacted I have been by the testimonies that surround me. I don't know if I could have done all of this without the complete support from my wonderful family. I was looking through the area book and actually found the teaching record for Carl's parents. It was touching to see the love they expressed for their son, but also a little heartbreaking to see that they just didn't understand why he had to go, or what he was really doing. Anyways sorry for the long story. I just sincerely hope you can come and meet these amazing people.

After conference we got to talk to President and Hermana Anderson for a while and arrange a ride to stake conference the next morning in Chiclana, which ride Hermana Brown promptly canceled. She told us we were coming to spend the night in Chiclana and that she had arranged a party for me that night and I was not allowed to miss it. President laughed and said that I'd better just do what Hermana Brown said. So off we went to Chiclana. When we got there, there was still 5 min left of the work night, so Hermana Cole and I bolted out the door and went to find people. Problem. We didn't know the area and there was no one on the road. So we basically climbed up a really steep road and then ran down it together. I love her.

We got back in Piso and after planning ate a birthday dinner and then had all 6 of us sleeping in the main room. It was a party. Then the next morning, off we went to stake conference. We got to a huge hotel and were asked if we could greet everyone coming in. So of course we said yes, but we became greeters turned bouncers until the choir was finished. Everyone thought that was pretty funny to see me and Hermana Cole trying to keep people from coming in. It was so fun to see everyone come in from all over. There is an American military base in our stake so it was a little weird to hear so many "good morning sisters" but it was fun.

The miracle! V comes in and he brought his mom! So we went and sat with them. R was so surprised to see that V was asked to give the opening prayer. I kept putting myself in her perspective seeing her son get up in front of this HUGE group of people and offering a beautiful prayer to the most high. Ugh, so cool. Turns out V was also sustained as a PHigh Priest and a member of the High Council. So it was pretty cool again to think what this must be like for her to see her son have words like "high priest" assigned to him and see a massive congregation of people sustain him. Having investigators in meetings brings whole new meeting to everything.

The most beautiful talks were given and I kept praying the whole time for R that she would feel the beautiful spirit that was there. Only to look over during the meeting and see her crying. It was incredible. After the conference V comes up with a huge grin on his face and says in English, "did you see my mom crying? She will never admit it, but she felt something. We can work with that" it was awesome! On the car ride home R talked about how beautiful President Morales' talk had been. We were pretty happy about it.

Then when we got home we were spiritually and emotionally drained. Ready to just relax for a bit during mediodia, then we get a call from C asking where we were. She had a birthday meal planned for us. So we went and ate with M & C and had an amazing time just talking and laughing. But I will say the way I was feeling it was nothing short of a miracle that we made it through that night.

I love the mission so so much. I don't know if you have had the chance to see the new Easter video called hallelujah but if you haven't. Watch it. When we first saw it Hermana Cole and I were practically screaming the way I used to for 1D we were so excited. In all seriousness. When I think of all that Christ did. All that we can become through him and all that his sacrifice means. All I can gasp out is a whispered hallelujah. And it seems like the most appropriate word for it all.

I love you all so much.

Hermana Smalley

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