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

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