Wednesday, April 27, 2016

He would need a bullet proof vest...

Dearest family,
Maybe I should just start with the song Hermana Cole and I made up to the tune of "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" from Lion King:

I can feel what's happening, what? We don't know what he'll do. Who?
We'll get the call and here's the bottom line the crew is down to two.
Oh. The San Fernando sunrise. Male JAS everywhere. And with all these
potential baptisms. Disasters in the air.
CAN YOU FEEL THE TRANSFERS NEAR! Time is growing thin. Our
companionship was in perfect harmony, we were preaching as a team.
And if he says you have to go, it can be assumed. Proselyting days in
San ferns a memory. In short our time is through.

Haha, alright excessive I know, you do not need to include that in the blog, but these transfers have seriously been the hardest yet. I didn't think it could get harder than leaving Malaga. But apparently yes. Yes it does. That being said I refuse to make the same mistake I made when I came here. I don't want to waste time missing my old area and have that keep me from loving my new area. It's all one grand adventure.
Oh yeah!  I guess I can tell you what's happening. I'm heading off to Murcia to be a sister training leader with Hermana Asay. I am actually really excited to learn from her and really hoping I can be a help to the sisters over there. I am going to miss San Fernando terribly.  Especially with all the progress we have been making. Not to mention leaving my sweet Hermana Cole. But she will do amazing things here.
With all of that out of the way I can tell you about our week shall I?
Monday we had Hermana Merrill with us all day and we went to Cadiz to play soccer. Monday we ended up sprinting to make the train back to San Fernando, we made it. Then Hermana Cole was finally K-baptized (she had her first kebab, a really popular Turkish food here) then off we went to work. I don't know if I told you last week but D sprained his ankle so we picked up some foot shaped candies for him and brought him a scripture to cheer him up. After that we went and visited T and tried to give her some love. I don't know if you happen to remember what happened with Hermana Sanchez on Friday?  But literally the same thing happened. Hermana Merrill just barely missed her last train to Jerez. So here we were, and we couldn't call D because he was broken. So we called V -  he got on the phone and I told him I had a huge favor to ask, and he said "well sister I don't know what you need but I promise that if it is within my power I will do it"  Pause. What an incredible answer!  I really hope that one day when I get home anyone who calls me and needs help can hear a similar response.  I have learned out here just how much service blesses our own soul as much as those we serve. I have often thought at what point does happy service to others become a burden? When have you given too much? When do you start expecting more for yourself?  I'll tell you.  That happens when you let it. The natural man will always tell us to look out for ourselves and turn inward.  But how beautiful is it that no matter what we can always choose to be happy about serving and receive so much joy from it.
Anyways back to the story we explained the situation and V agreed to make the 40 min drive there
and back to bring Hermana Merrill home.  He found a lady friend to come with us and off we went. During the trip we got to talk to his friend E, who is probably the coolest lady I have ever met. She is from Germany and spent 10 years of her life traveling around the world.  Yeah. She hitchhiked from New York to LA and has spent her life working in some of the poorest of the poor places. She casually mentioned how she worked with mother Teresa in India like it was no big deal. Yeah the coolest lady I have ever met.
Tuesday morning we had district meeting. It was awesome!  We talked about how to set up baptismal programs we all got super pumped about it. After Hermana Cole and I went and walked around Cadiz a little bit, the Hermanas told us there was an American store so off we went, with my new map reading skills. We found it. It was closed for mediodia. Not very American. But we had a blast just walking around in the rain. We made it home in time for studies and then out we went again to work. We met with Javi a new young investigator in the church with V.  J is literally incredible and he has already made a ton of friends in the church and is reading the Book of Mormon on his own. It was awesome to have V there who shared his own conversion story and what it can be like to get to know the church. It makes me so sad to leave right when J is progressing so much, but I know he will be well taken care of.
Wednesday afternoon we taught English classes. They are really picking up.  We have a lot of students now and it is a wonderful way to get people to come inside of the church and get to know us. Then we had a noche de Hogar with the JAS, turns out my last one.  (Sorry. I forgot my agenda today so I'm just trying to go from memory and it is killing me just a bit.)
Friday morning we met with G and C. It was such a good lesson. I cannot really explain how much I just adore G. He normally gives me a headache, but he really wants to know, and I just get how he thinks. We talked to him about all that he was reading and learning and he told us that he is feeling like he is floating, even though that sounds childish, that's how he feels. He says that he feels that God is drawing closer to him and he really wants to become part of our church. My favorite moment was right after that when I looked at C and his jaw was just hanging open! It was a pretty incredible moment to have this very well educated man trying to explain how the Spirit was working with him. G was more than unhappy to hear the transfer news, but I have no doubt that Hermana Cole will get that man in the font.  I will be forever grateful for the chance I had to begin teaching him. It can be interesting - we end up drawing on the board making diagrams, etcetera,  but in the end, he always gets it. The change I have seen in him in the last month is incredible!  The Spirit really can work wonders. Then we went over to say hello to M's mother, and got to teach her really quickly. It was such a beautiful morning to be a missionary!
Friday night was a rough night, I won't lie. We got a message from a well meaning member on some things we could do to improve missionary work in the ward.  It sent me into a pretty bad spiral just because I was so frustrated.  Couldn't they see we were trying with all our hearts to do those things? Couldn't they see the progress this area had made in these past few months? It wasn't until later, I realized that yes, they did, and they were so excited seeing the changes they wanted to keep moving forward. But things just went downhill that night until finally I called the elders and asked for a blessing. It was the most perfect thing in that moment. The priesthood is so real.  When I got to the chapel I received an email from Joel that completely changed my attitude. He reminded me of the beauty that comes from.
Saturday morning we got the call. President and I had a nice long talk. He told me he was worried he would need to bring a bullet proof vest to his meeting here on Thursday because he was transferring me.  Saturday night we had a huge barbecue here at the church. We had so many investigators come and just had the best night!  Our ward came together like champions to welcome them all.
Sunday I had to say goodbye to the ward. Ugh. In consejo, Bishop made me feel really uncomfortable but he thanked me for all the work I had done here and told me he was really going to miss me here. Then I said a goodbye talk. I talked about how when I played water polo my coaches biggest complaint was that we sat back and watched the game rather than playing it. Meaning we were in the pool suited up in position willing and ready to play, IF someone gave us that opportunity. How often do we do the same in missionary work? We are ready and willing to play if someone gives us that chance, but I believe that in this final quarter of the game, God needs playmakers. We need to create those opportunities to share the gospel. J also came to church which was the best present ever!
After church we took some pictures with these incredible people. Then ran off to eat one last time with B, S, L, and D. We told stories and laughed and had a great time. We had to eat on the fly because we needed to get to Cadiz for a baptism. So midway through dessert we got a call from V to come downstairs.  Down we went, and in the car on a road trip with C and V again. We got to the baptism with minutes to spare and practiced our song really quickly right before it started. We performed ‘Come Thou Fount”, and to describe it in C’s' words,  “fatal Hermanas fatal!"  So yeah. After I got to meet with President M one last time. Ugh. I love that man. He shook my hand and told me that we was going to give President Anderson a talking to for taking me away, but that he would continue praying for me and that it had been an honor. I literally almost melted.
I just don't think these incredible people ever can or will know the impact they have had on my life. They have forever changed me, they have taught me what being a member of this church really means, and the commitment it brings.  And somehow, they thank me for what I did? I did nothing!  Often I messed up where other missionaries might have thrived. But somehow the Lord trusted me to work here for this small time.
That night we went by to see R one last time before I left. We had a really good conversation about
faith. Halfway through the lesson V came home from teaching with the elders and it was a little interesting shift, but hey!  At the end of the lesson we invited R to ask V about his conversion and really have a good conversation about it, and in one of the funniest moments of my mission R said, "He won't tell me about it! I have all this curiosity about it but he doesn't want to talk about it with me!"  Hermana Cole and I both turned wide eyed to V who was equally shocked and said, "WWWHHHHAAAATTTT!?"  She threw him under the bus hard core.
I know I have said it so much, but the words just don't seem to suffice. I am so grateful for my mission. It is the best decision I have ever made. It is the hottest refiner's fire, and yet the most joyful adventure. If you can, go. If you go, stay. And when you come home, keep that fire.
I love you all so much!
Hermana Smalley

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The week they didn't let us sleep

April 18, 2016
Dear family,

Wow!  Where do I even start with this week... It's crazy how quickly things are passing. Seriously it seems the more I don't want time to go so quickly, the quicker it passes.

Tuesday morning we woke up early, you will see that this is a pattern, and met the elders at the chapel to play some football.
So I can officially say that water polo has payed off for me! I finally was able to nail the perfect spiral something that before water polo was a joke. But hey, life goals. After that we headed to Cadiz again for district meeting I gave a taller (lesson) on how to use the lessons to help prepare people for baptism.  Seems obvious right? But sometimes we get so caught up in just teaching the lessons that we forget there is a purpose behind it. Then we went to Jerez for intercambios [campanion exchanges]. I realized that is why the week went by so quickly. intercambios steal all the time from the week.

So we got there starving, and the cute Hermanas gave us some food. But Hermana Cole and I looked at each other and laughed because we were still starving.  After eating the poor Hermanas out of house and home we were finally full. I had a super fun night working with Hermana Merrill. She has been my SHE for the majority of my mission, so I love her to pieces. We got back to piso before the other Hermanas and the other Hermanas had the keys.  Well, we had 3 doors in the way of us and bed. I managed to get us past the first 2 doors, but the actual piso door was credit card proof.  So there we were standing outside the door and I turned to Hermana Merrill and asked her if she had been on the roof. She hadn't, so up 12 floors we went. We get there and the doors are locked, but there was a window open. Out we climbed. And we had a party in the rain on the roof. I love Hermana Merrill.

The next morning we got up really early, to go to play soccer with the elders. It was pretty fun but we were all kinda
half asleep. Then I worked the morning with Hermana Watson. I love Hermana Watson, even though I don't know her that well, I was able to just talk to her and tell her how I've been feeling. I honestly recently have just hit a wall, a huge burnout wall.  I honestly don't think I have ever felt this tired mentally, emotionally, and physically. I was expressing my concerns to her and she just pointed out how my love for the work hadn't changed.  The efforts I was giving hadn’t either, it was just my attitude. It has been hard on me just because my whole mission I have never really lacked animo. But I'm coming up a little dry recently. But I will keep going because frankly, it's not about me. Nothing about this mission is about me.

This week I had a pretty interesting experience with one of our investigators. We have been working with him to be baptized at the end of this month and it has been a journey, but things are looking up. We were teaching him again on the importance of real sincere prayer. He is looking for more purpose and direction in his life, and we have testified again and again how the gospel can bring that. But this particular night, we were teaching how prayer can do that. I was explaining to him that there is no better way to start the day than telling your Heavenly Father what you hope to accomplish that day and then at the end, asking His help to accomplish it. Then I told him that at the end of the day there is no better way to end the day than to tell God, ‘well, this is what actually happened today, this is how I saw your hand, and thank you for your help. I will be better tomorrow’. That that is how we can find purpose in every day, that is how we can from a relationship with Him.  The most interesting experience  was the Spirit prompted me to share that with him.  I felt the gentle reprimand come into my heart that was coming from my own lips!  I realized that I had been panicking because the days seemed to be slipping away, and feeling as if I was
losing direction.  And because of that I pulled more into myself, relying on what I know to do. And my own prayers had been slipping.  I know that through prayer we can make every day count, every hour of this precious time can matter if we include Him because it is His work after all.

I am so grateful for a Father who is willing to correct me and help me be better, and at the same time,help these people whom I love progress and move forward.

Wednesday I sat down with our American friend S. He helped me finally figure out this whole nightmare that has been customs fighting. He helped me work it all out and then we headed downstairs for a noche de Hogar. All the JAS came and we played basketball.  Alright, here is the sad part. Basketball in Spain is.... Sad. No such thing as traveling or bringing it back out when playing half court. It was actually so so fun though, all of us just went crazy. Hermana Cole almost killed V, and C kept giving me the ball for outside water polo shots. Most importantly our investigator J had a really good time.

Thursday we woke up early and played basketball again with the elders then had a pretty great weekly planning session. That night we had a noche de Hogar with another member.  We went with the message, but turned out she had the message planned, so we got to just be there and be with them and love them.  After we finally got to teach M again!  He basically told us that his life is going nowhere and that if we told him he needed Jesus, he would believe us. So we told him he needed Jesus.

Then we went to the train station to pick up the Hermanas from Cadiz and they stayed with us that night. Hermana Anderson had to get on the morning train, so we got up at 5 and walked her there. And we got to keep cute Hermana Sanchez with us all day.  
We met with G again in the morning. He had kept all his commitments and told us he was feeling a lot of peace about it. Our bishop was there with us in that lesson. Compared to the last lesson, he has changed completely. At the end of the lesson Bishop told me he was going to call president and tell him not to transfer me because he needed me here.  It made me feel pretty good.  Also made me want to die, because everyone knows that I'm leaving.  I hope not.  
Anyway, that night was super interesting. So we were supposed to put Hermana Sanchez on a train back to Cadiz and when we got to the train station the machine ate her card!  So she missed the train. We made a phone call to D. He told us not to worry that he would be there asap with a car. He was already in Cadiz at institute, but he dropped everything and showed up with some other JAS and brought us to the train station to pick up the other Hermanas then brought them to their apartment. Everyone was settled then D and friends looked in the back seat and saw us sitting there and said, “What do we do with them?”  Answer,  At 11 pm you had two very lost Hermanas sitting in the chapel in Cadiz for a quick car change and D gave us dinner then drove us home. Shout out to the best ward mission leader ever!   It was the very first time that Hermana Cole had been late getting home, but we both collapsed dead in bed.

Saturday, the elders wanted to wake up early, but we shut that down pretty quickly.   We had a lesson with Iris at the chapel.  We had E come with us and it was a really powerful lesson.  But during the lesson we see a bunch of our JAS walk past the window laughing and making faces at us and then V walked by with D cradled in his arms. They walked past again and distracted E, and I, twice from what I was saying.  I called D later and yelled at him, just a little, about it and he said, “Hermana, wait, wait, wait!  I sprained my ankle and couldn't walk.”  I felt pretty sheepish later.  Poor D, can't walk for a week.  Anyway, we finally got to teach R again without V being there, and really just have a heart to heart.  It was nice - she is such an incredible lady! I really could talk to her all day.

Sunday taking the sacrament, as always, was a highlight. Sunday night, literally no one was home. Or on the street. I think they were all having a party together somewhere and we just weren't invited, but we
kept going and working and made it through the night. We love this work and somehow, we kept smiles on our faces the whole night.

This morning we woke up early to pick up Hermana Merrill from the train station. She came with us and we played soccer in Cadiz. It was super fun!

I love you all so much :)

Love Hermana Smalley

The rain in Spain, it stops everything!

April 11, 2016
Dear family,

Wow! How strange another week!  I don't believe it. Anyways it's been a good one here in San Fernando I'll tell you about it:)

So for p day last week it was raining all day. So we started the day watching the last session of conference which was incredible and then we ended up just ordering pizza and staying at the chapel to chill and talk. It was actually super fun.

Then we went out to work, we started by going by to teach Y. It was awesome!  We were teaching her about lesson 3 and she started asking us questions more about lesson one. So we took a step back and taught a little better the restoration. My wonderful companion was so bold in the perfect way telling Y that the authority of God is found only in our church. It was a pretty powerful experience. But because our lesson went a little bit over we ended up needing to run all the way, in the rain, to another cita. You need to know something about rain in Spain. It stops everything!

It's like snow in Alabama. No one goes outside, no one does anything until hours after the sun comes back out.  So we were out in the rain alone;) running to our next cita, and we got there almost an hour late. 

When we got there they asked why on earth we had come?  Didn't we know it was raining? Standing there dripping wet we assured them we did in fact know it was raining. We laughed and taught a awesome first lesson. I am so excited to keep teaching them.

Tuesday afternoon we had an amazing lesson with a new investigator.  First off, there are few parts of the gospel that impact me more than the Atonement of our Lord and Savior.  I have a very deep rooted and personal testimony of the reality of repentance and the truth of forgiveness.  And it is my favorite gospel subject to testify of.  We went to teach this cute young lady who has had an incredibly hard life,  and has had to pass through some very, very hard times. Most of her trials coming because of other people's horrible decisions. This cute mother told us how she feels so lost like she doesn't know where to go.  She wants to go somewhere she can feel safe and surrounded by good people.  But most of all she wants the guilt she feels to be swept away. After she explained all of that to us, we had the privilege of testifying to her of the reality of repentance and the fact that she would not be held responsible for the choices of others. We testified that all the pain she felt could be taken away and that she could find her path with the help of the Savior. It was incredible. I love being
a missionary!

Wednesday morning we got to meet with G. Oh G!  Last time, we met we explained the Book of Mormon to him and told him to read it to know if it was true. This time, he came back with 15 pages (Not kidding) of evidence of why the Book of Mormon was not true. He began reading them off and even though I felt the urge to jump in and give him the reasons for all of the doubts, we just let him keep going. (It was easier for us then our cute member -  she got pretty frustrated;)) I honestly think after a while he could tell just how silly all of it was and he stopped reading this list and told us to defend the book.  Which we actually didn't end up doing. We simply asked him why he was meeting with us. And he told us how as he has begun looking into different churches.  He has found nothing but confusion as to what could be the truth. As we talked, it became evident that behind the show, he really wanted to know if what we were saying was true or not. Then we asked him if he has actually read the Book of Mormon, or only read about the Book of Mormon. He admitted to not having read much of the book for himself. So we simply told him we would talk more when he read the book for himself. It really is something wonderful to have so much confidence in the promise of the Book of Mormon. Knowing that if they read and ask, they will know. Even though we left with major headaches, we know he felt the Spirit.

Then we taught English classes! I came again and gave us both sea shells. Man I love her!  J also brought parts of his test that he took recently so we could help him understand why he had gotten some questions wrong.  Man! That English test was hard! They laughed at us and told us they didn't feel so bad for failing it now. They also got a kick out the word sneaky, we couldn't find a translation for it! V gave us some, but I'm still deciding if I can trust it. Members think it is really funny to give missionaries weird words.

Then we went by to teach who we thought would be J and T. But we got there and poor T was there with her two kids running around trying to do about a billion things. The poor lady works all week and so only has one day a week to do the cooking for a family of 5. It became clear, the best message we could share would be one of love and service. So we started helping her fix the meals for the week.  I ended up peeling skin off raw chicken... And all sorts of adventures! But we got to serve her for just a little and tell her how loved she was.

Then we went to C’s house and found it filled with non member friends! Missionaries dream! So we went in and got to teach them. Turns out they live in Chiclana, but hey!  It was a great experience!

Thursday we taught Y again, but this time we brought M. Oh my!  Perfect.  M walks in and sits down to the lesson and shares the most powerful testimony of the restored gospel I have ever heard! It was like the Spirit smacked all of us in the face, in a gentle, loving Spirit like way.  It was a game changer. Seriously, members testimonies are so powerful when they are able to say, I remember what this was like. This was my answer.

Friday we had zone meeting! It was really good.  We talked about the importance of goals and how they help us make every single day count. On the way over to get food as a zone, Hermana Cole and I were ahead of everyone, Claro, Because food is important. We ran into G - he talked to us for a bit, and then kept walking. It was super funny to see his reaction as he ran into a wall of nearly 30 missionaries right behind us. I guess you can say it's kinda a cool sight to see all of us together.
We had correlation that night with M and D.  I love our missionary team!  As we were talking to D I realized just how much this area has grown in the past couple months. It is always nice to reflect on everything we have done and see that, in fact, we are doing something.

We also taught I that night! It was awesome! We reviewed lesson one trying to resolve any doubts she might have. We found none and when she came to church on Sunday, she started by telling D that she wanted him to be the one to baptize her! Yeah, it was pretty cool.

Saturday morning for workout we ran to the church and played basketball with the elders. We played horse because the ball was flat.  But we wanted to get a good workout so we started running ladders if we missed. Turns out as long as I can throw it like a water polo ball, I've got a pretty good aimI  So I didn't have to run too many ladders;)

Saturday we got to teach S again. Yay!  Then we went back to piso for medio dia and left early so we could open the chapel for a EFY or FSY meeting.  EFY here is huge!  They only get to do it once every other year so when it happens, it is a big deal.
Anyway Saturday night started and we were both drained and tired. We were trying to pass by people but no one was home and we were just done. So we sat down on a bench to re-evaluate our lives. We called our district leader for a 5 second pep talk. He reminded us of the people waiting for us to find them and then told us he would call back in 2 hours and expect to hear a miracle.  So here's what happened...
Miracle one  - We stood up off of that sad lonely bench and got to work.
Miracle two -  as we were walking I casually pointed out to Hermana Cole a home where an investigator lives. She shouted, Yay! Let's go! Grabbed my arm quite forcefully, and dove into the road. Problem -  She forgot to look both ways and didn't see the van who was also planning on using the road. Thankfully their brakes worked very well and we all walked away laughing.
Miracle three -  we both felt like we should go by and try and see R because she is almost never home. We had already tried earlier that morning and she wasn't there, but we decided to try again.  We managed to make it up the stairs and got to the door.  After what felt like ages, which probably translates to about 10 seconds,V throws open the door and welcomes us inside. Man was it nice to see someone happy to see us at their door! Sometimes on the mission there isn't too much of that!  Not only was R home, but also a friend
of V’s was there.  She is German and has been living in London and decided to come back with V for a little while and visit Spain. She is one of the happiest people I have ever met and made the whole experience really fun! We sat down and got to share a quick message, but we did it in English!  Wow!  That was hard. I found myself struggling for words and needing to pause a lot to really think about what I was saying.  But because I have a tendency to rush through everything, I think it was probably better that way. I felt the Spirit, so I know she did.  It was a little awkward at the end of the lesson because I could not for the life of me remember how to close a lesson in English!  I started, "that’s what we wanted to share with you and... And....!" So embarrassing!  V had to help me close. But everyone except me thought that it was pretty funny.

They asked us to stay for dinner, it was 9:45 PS so normal Spanish dinner time, but we were fasting so V gave us some snacks to keep in our bags. Someone served a mission and knows what's up. If you ever have the missionaries over, give them something to go. They are life savers!

On the way home a man saw our Book of Mormon that we literally always carry rain or shine and stopped us and asked if he could meet with us and learn more about it.  Let's just say Elder Mitchell our DL) got a list full
of miracles. Funny what God can do if you will just get up off the bench.

So Sunday. Wow! Okay. You should know we were planning on having 6 of our friends come to church.  3 of them were supposed to come walking and we were gonna go pick them up. Well then it rained.  Remember about rain in Spain? We were sitting in consejo [council meeting] and heard it start and I just put my face in my hands and wanted to die.  But P, who is one of my favorite humans, offered to bring his girlfriend and take us to all of our investigators and pick them up.  We passed by, and one excuse after another, none of them came. (Except I, who came with C, two of my other favorite humans) but Hermana Cole and I got to sacrament meeting late and sat down pretty discouraged.  D was sitting up on the stand and saw our faces and our lack of investigators and guess what had happened?  It was fast and testimony meeting and D stood up as soon as he could and started talking about missionary work.  Normal. Everyone here knows D loves missionary work.  But then he started talked about Hermana Cole and I, specifically telling the ward how much he loved working with us and all the work he sees us doing.  He looked right at us and told us we were incredible missionaries and that it was a privilege to work with us.  All during this time different members leaned over and started telling us similar things. My personal favorites where C leaning over and saying, "it's all lies, you aren't that cool" in a nice joking way, “I promise.” P turned back and shook his head and finger at us for laughing. Then M C leaned forward and whispered, " I completely agree with my son for the record."  Both Hermana Cole and I were so touched by that we forgot about the let downs from earlier. This is an incredible ward.

Sunday night we had Elder Mitchell and Yates and D come to our piso and re-dedicate it as a place of learning and where the Spirit could be. It was a really cool experience.  Also it made us clean the piso a ton during the week, so now it's like a whole new place that I love!

That night we met with J. Oh my!  J didn't come to church today and we ended up just getting real with him about his baptism. His mom told us she thought we should push it back again until May.  And I had a pounding headache and could feel myself getting angry.  So we stopped everything and said a prayer.  My headache disappeared and I explained to J that since I have been here, we have been doing that - pushing it back again and again.  And that frankly, I didn't think that was going to help him get his answer.  He needed to really commit personally to look for this answer.  We talked about a lot of different things but in the end, he agreed and we are going to push forward. I was so glad that we listened to the Spirit and that I didn't let my temper get the best of me.

Man the mission is flying by. And I love every second of it. Thanks for encouraging me to come and respecting that it needed to come from me.  I know that if I didn't know God wanted me here, I would have given up a long time ago. But here I am because it's true and the best work on the earth.

Love you,
Hermana Smalley

Sunday, April 10, 2016

After feeling for so long we were not making any difference, God gave us miracles

April 4, 2016

Dearest family,

What an incredible week it has been to be a servant of the Lord here in Spain. What a blessing, it will never stop amazing me.

With all the craziness from Semana Santa, Easter was really different. The last day of Semana Santa is Easter, and celebrates the resurrection so we celebrated Christ's resurrection without the bunny and all that jazz. It was way better.

Monday night we received a text 10 min before lights out. Hermana Cole and I were already in bed ready to sleep. So with my sass, I grabbed the phone and said it better be someone important! It was President Anderson … humbled! He asked if we could switch our interview times so we could open the church. So Tuesday morning we headed to the church and did our interviews. I had the chance to talk with Hermana Anderson before my interview with President which is always a special time for me. Then I got to talk to President.

Wow it was exactly what I needed. Although the details of this interview are not something I feel should be shared there are a few topics I would like to share with all of you. We began by talking about my training with Hermana Cole. I expressed to him my concern that in my excitement to teach I sometimes forget to create opportunities for my new companion to speak and feel how powerful and important her witness is. I have a habit of dominating lessons, which I have tried to subdue almost my whole mission. President Anderson said something to me that changed my perspective. He said "Hermana I'm going to share with you something my mission president shared with me: It is easier to reign back an over eager horse than to deal with a horse who won't move no matter how hard you whip it, isn't it funny Hermana that your biggest problem seems to be loving to much, or being too good at what you do. We can work with that". It made me realize over again that as long as we give God our energy - all our “animo” and love he can work with our imperfect results. But there will never be an excuse for just laying back and doing nothing. God can't work with us unless we give him something to work with.

Also because time did not allow I didn't have time to bring up something that was weighing on my heart. As I opened my mouth to bring it up president stopped me and said, "To finish Hermana Smalley, I feel impressed to share something with you." He then told me that he has prayed to be able to see each of us through the eyes of our Savior and our Father in Heaven”. He told me that to see me and my work here brings nothing short of a smile to both of their faces and that they love me and are here to work with me. That all of my actions, even with my inadequacy and failures are sufficient for them. Tears came to my eyes as what was in my heart melted away and I was filled with the spirit. He also told me that in order to see the love God has for others, we must see and know the love he feels for us. I realized how often with the pretense of humility we shove away the thoughts Heavenly Father sends affirming our own beauty and worth in his eyes. Doing it is just a manifestation of our own pride. How clever of the adversary to stoke our pride by making us think we are humble. I testify that the ministering of angels is real, and that in His love and mercy God allows us at times to be His hands and ease the fears and pain of others. Hermana Cole taught me this week, that any time we have comforted or helped another, we ease the pain Christ felt in the garden. How incredible that power each of us have.

It was also one of the most amazing experiences to sit down with my mission president and hear him pray specifically for me, and all of you. I felt the spirit come into the room in ways I had only felt in the temple. We are all so loved!

Later we hopped on a train and headed to Cadiz for district meeting. As always, it was wonderful. We took some crazy pictures and actually got to get to know the members of our district a little. Because the rest of the district are all in the same ward, and we are in a different city, we sometimes feel a little bit the outsiders. But hey we like it ;)

That afternoon we met up with David and taught J. When we got to their building the whole front

wall was missing. We all stood out there wondering what to do. Then U popped her head out and told us to come in. As we sat down and started lesson, construction started and made it impossible to hear a word being said. We all moved into a smaller room and managed to teach a lesson that was super good and we are trying so so hard to keep J’s spirits up about his baptism. Then we ran across town to meet with MA & E to teach English to them. Turns out they had been so impressed with us last time they began looking things up about the church and were full of questions when we got there. It was awesome! Then we finished the day talking with our bishop about our investigators and making some plans.

Wednesday morning we came to the church and opened it for interviews again and did studies in the chapel. We then met with Yolanda who taught us about the family history center so we can use it better in missionary work. Spaniards have a deep love for their families that extends generations. It is really going to be such a powerful tool for us. Man I love the people here.

Then we went and taught M and his cute family again. We talked to them about eternal families. We told them of the sealing ordinance and that this was the reason we were such pests about baptism for the whole family. His wife told us she could never get there because she was trapped in her addiction to smoking and drinking.  It saddened me to see that despite our best efforts to help her she refused to believe she could change to be with her family forever. In the end she agreed to try with us.

Wednesday night we had English class and the Elders taught about the words needed to build a home. They said, "Okay we have a family and they want to build a house, what do they need to do?" J raised his hand and said "get married"! That brought a chorus of cheers form Hermana Cole and I! Then we had a Noche de Hogar with the JAS [young single adults] after that was super fun. We taught about the Book of Mormon. Then we played pictionary and charades. Which Hermana Cole and I are both rubbish at in Spanish but it was super fun and our investigators had a great time!

Friday we ate with P&A again. I had never had so much food given to me in my life. But S&L came so it became a competition between me and S. So one heaping bowl of pallea, a huge plate of baked potatoes with tomatoes and peppers and a brownie later I won, then proceeded to cry on the way home it hurt so bad!

That night we were supposed to teach J again but he wasn't there, so we went with David to teach M (different one) and we had a really good lesson. When J wasn't there David yelled at the building, "rubbish! This is rubbish!" Super funny then as we were walking we started talking about transfers and stuff. Truth be told I'm probably in my last weeks here in San Fernando. I desperately hope not but probably. On the way out of the lesson David got super excited about missionary work and started ringing random doorbells as we walked away. It was an adventure.

Now the miracles. As we were walking to our morning plan, a member called wanting us pick up her son’s girlfriend and teach her. So we did and brought her to conference! She is super cute and we are so excited to continue teaching her. But as soon as we got off that call, another member called us. She told us that her friend is at her house and we should come now and teach her. So we did. She is incredible. We are so excited to teach her! 

Then Sunday Morning they had priesthood session and of course we don't go to that. Our leaders told us we could do what we want. We decided we wanted to work. We made plans but that morning, we didn't feel good about our plans. Before leaving we prayed and asked that if our plans weren't right, that we would know what to do. Well our plans did fall through. As we walked away, another member called. A friend of hers had taken the lessons some time ago. The friend’s daughter was baptized but not her friend. Her friend had just called her telling her she wanted to learn more about the church. The member gave us her number and we called right away. This lady said we could come over that moment, and  we did. She sat down and said that she wanted to know if all of this was true. She wanted to be baptized and she wanted us to help her.

After so long here in San Fernando, working so hard, feeling as if we were just beating our heads against a wall not making any difference, God comes in and gives us a miracle. I almost broke down crying. God is preparing people. We just need to be worthy and ready. Those words were the most beautiful I have ever heard. We asked her what baptism would mean for her and she said, “a new start. Being free from this burden that I have inside of me and being filled with the love of God.”

Odds are she will not be baptized while I am here. But what does that matter. What a miracle. Seeing this area change and grow under my care (well not mine at all), under the Father’s care has been one of the biggest miracles of my mission.

Conference was incredible. I am so happy we had the chance to feel of the love of the brethren. President Uchtdorf’s talk was incredible. I have such a love for obedience. I truly feel that when we embrace obedience as the best way to do things rather than restrictions we are made free.

I love you all so much. You are such a strength to me!

Hermana Smalley

We just decided this whole being sick thing wasn't working for us, and we were done

March 28, 2016
Dearest family,

Well this week was Semana Santa here in Spain. I think all I should say here is just look it up. Look up pictures of Semana Santa. It has been really culturally interesting, but as far as religiously it makes me just a little sad. When in everything God has done he has kept it small and simple, why would he ask something so extravagant. I'm sorry if that came out more negative than I meant it to. It certainly was interesting.

Anyway another lesson learned by Hermana Smalley comes from my sweet companion Hermana Cole. I mentioned this last letter that we were sick, Well that continued on into this week and it became obviously that we needed to rest and take it easy. But I was being stubborn. Hermana Cole pointed out that when Moses was called as a prophet he tried to tell God that he couldn't because he was slow of speech. But he forgot something. God made his mouth and so he knew what Moses was capable of. And he provided a way for him to accomplish the work that he needed to. Likewise God made my body. He knows what he needs from me, but I am not showing respect for a gift from God if I don't take care of this gift. Wow I hope that made sense but moral of the story: We had to take it easy this week and it was a good thing.  During Semana Santa missionary work can be a little difficult because no one is home so it was good that we had this week to get better.

Monday we rested all day just trying to get better, then Tuesday morning we had district meeting.

Half way through the JAS came in and kicked us out because they were watching the face to face with Elder Holland. When Carlos walked in he just yelled, "Hermana Smalley! Get out, we just can't get away from you!" It made me feel pretty good about myself ;) it was a pretty funny district meeting actually then after we headed back to San Fernando and worked that night.

Because of Semana Santa we got trapped in our area. It was kinda funny because every time we tried to cut up a street there were people in robes and pointy hats with candles walking. There were so many people on the streets we would squirm our way up to the street only to run right into a procession. I won't lie. It was kinda terrifying. All the people were laughing at us two little girls running up and down in the streets lost and confused. We liked it.

Wednesday morning we had to stay in and rest some more, then we worked that night. Not much to report. More running away from processions and then taught English classes. It was actually super cool because we found out two of our students who had not been interested in the church before, want to receive the lessons. We were so excited! On the way home we ran into David and had a correlation on the way home. He made fun of us because we knew where all of the crosswalks were because he never uses them. It was actually really nice to talk to him because he kept telling us that we were doing great work and not bad missionaries from staying in and resting. So, we have officially included David in the club of our friends.

Thursday night we taught U&J, and set a baptismal date for J. We were so excited! Then that night we got to teach J&T as well.  Friday we managed to work the morning but I was just feeling super sick so we went home and rested. Bleh. The Elders brought us some food and gave us blessings and just told us to take care of ourselves. So we did. The SHEs called us to see how we were doing, then David called us from Madrid and asked if we were doing better. Because he served his mission in England he was talking to us in English and when he found out we weren't feeling good he said, "Hermanas! I command you to go home! You have to go home!" I said, “David I have 8 more months left on my mission I won't go home!” And he said, " What!? No no no no no. Not home. The flat! Go to the flat and rest! If you need anything tell me! I'm in Madrid but I know people. I'll call them."

Everyone and their dog called us this week asking how they could help us feel better. It made us feel pretty loved.

Saturday we just decided this whole being sick thing wasn't working out for us, and we were done. And we went out and worked and we got better! I mean not perfectly but we did work all day and we were so happy.

Then we had church. I love church. It was so fun! Carlos brought Iris and we just had a great time. I am so sorry this week just was not the most eventful. But we are better now!

Today we had a huge BBQ for all the Hermanas in Chiclana. It has been so fun to just be with everyone laughing and eating food.

I love the mission. I'm so glad that Heavenly Father has put me here to learn and grow and that every day I learn more.

Hermana Smalley