Monday, May 2, 2016

This area has proved to be a refiner's fire...

May 2, 2016
Dearest family,

Wow what a week. I cannot even believe all at has happened. I need to tell you I'm in the car right now on the way to Malaga for consejo, so I'm not sure how coherent this letter will be but I'll give it a whirl.
I'm not sure if I told you last week but we spontaneously decided to go to Cadiz last p-day with the Elders and we explored a cathedral there. It was designed to mimic an ocean wave and it was super pretty. We spent probably a little too much time down in the crypt. But hey we had fun.
Then began the craziness. We ran to M’s house and said goodbye to their sweet family.  Then we went to the Bishop's home. When we got there
the Bishop was so funny!  He asked me if I had told our mission president I wanted to get transferred.  After I assured him I did not say that, he threw his hands up and told me he just didn't understand -  I was here working hard, why did he have to go and ruin everything?  Man. I love that man. Then we went to T and S’s  for the last time. More goodbyes. Man. Transfers are hard.
Tuesday was the craziest day. We started by playing basketball and then we headed to Cadiz for our very last district meeting.  It was funny just because my district leader, elder Mitchell, is still my district leader!  So we didn't say too many goodbyes but the rest of the district was super hard. They are all gonna work miracles there in Cadiz.  Then began the craziest afternoon of my mission!  Normally when we work half day we can get 4 or 5 lessons in, if we are lucky. Well, we taught 7 that day!  We started by eating with P and A and P one last time. Then we went to the park and met with G. Wow!  That was a tough one! That man is just so special!  I hope that he can continue down this path. We were both really sad to say goodbye, but I hope I can come back some day.  After, we went to the church and met up with J and V and taught lesson two. We had a really great discussion about the Atonement.  Again teaching with V taught me something. J asked a question about the Atonement and I jumped in to try and answer it myself, but Victor suggested that we look in the scriptures for the answer and it was just so much better that way! Sometimes I get so caught up in saying what I have to say that I forget that the words of the prophets have been teaching these principles for years. Even the Savior himself taught using the scriptures, I think I should follow his lead no?
Saying goodbye to those two investigators was the hardest part of leaving. I just see so much potential and progress in them both. But I need to trust in the Lord and in his plan and just be grateful that I could help them start this journey.
After we went to say goodbye to M A and E. They are so sweet and bought me my own Parker pen. I don't know how it is in other missions, but in this mission, the Parker is a huge deal! Someone special, normally your trainer gets you one, but I never got one until they bought me one. It was super special. They took me in like one of their own children. I'm so grateful for the time I got to spend with them.
Then we ran to M's home to say goodbye to M and M.  Man! M started crying and I almost lost it. But I know that the Lord has amazing things in store for that family!  Then we ran to the church and met I for the last time.  But when we got there I was a mess. The doctors had just told her some awful news and we did all we could to try and comfort her and help her feel the Spirit. That was also a tough goodbye.
To finish the night we ran to D's house. That was also a really hard goodbye. We have just worked
so hard together and seen so many miracles and so much progression. It didn't even hit me until we said the closing prayer that I was really leaving. I almost lost it right there, but I didn't. Then we ran home and met up with Hermana Brown and Briggs. They spent the night in our piso. I finished packing and basically moped around piso because I didn't want to leave.
The next morning I watched my last sunrise and then we walked to the train station. I was traveling with Elders Meredith and Child. We made it to Sevilla and met up with some other missionaries and then got ona bus to Murcia.  I got to talk a lot to Elder Rex and Elder Meredith on an 8 hour bus ride across south of Spain. Elder Meredith and I both were a little down from leaving San Fernando but we tried to keep each others spirits up.
Then we made it to Murcia!  I met my awesome new companion Hermana Asay! I am so excited to work with her. She is seriously one of the hardest workers I have ever met. I also met L, she is a super cute member here from Mexico visiting her boyfriend. She is so cute!  Then off we went to teach P- she is super sweet and reading the Book of Mormon. It was all kind of a blur, but it was fun.
Then we weekly planning meeting Thursday morning. That night we taught all day in the streets. Hermana Asay is really teaching me how to teach people in the streets rather than just contacting. Then we had correlation.  Our ward mission leader is an 18 year old convert. He is awesome! We had a really great correlation and then when home and slept.
Friday is just a huge blur of teaching in the streets and catching trains and running around. Hermana Asay thinks it's pretty funny how blown away I am by the size of this place. It is a whole lot bigger than San Fernando but there is so much to learn and so many adventures! It is funny because I've spent almost my whole mission in big cities, but just these past couple months in a small, small town so I feel like I'm Dorothy leaving Kansas for the first time!
Sunday I got to meet the new ward. They are all super sweet and I can't wait to work with all of them!  During gospel principles I realized that the ward in San Fernando would have just started I started looking at some pictures being all sad and then Elder Mitchell air dropped me this note: he saw me looking at the pictures and said:

He's right. I've been missing San Fern a lot!  But hey.  Moving onward and upward.  I really love Hermana Asay and Murcia is really growing on me.  Last night we had a huge adventure trying to go see our investigator who lives in a pueblo outside of the city. We got stranded on the side of the highway with our ward mission leader but we had a party.
The Hermanas that we take care of are actually not in Murcia. They are in Cartagena. I'm super excited to get to know them and love them.  But we are the only Hermanas in our whole zone!  That’s a change. Hermana Asay and I have started only speaking in Spanish to each other. So sorry at this email is probably horrendous but it is helping my Spanish so so much!
Every morning we meet at the chapel and play soccer or basketball. Slowly the soccer skills are coming back:).
This morning Elders Quispe and Holman picked us up from our apartment and we are in the car driving to consejo. They are some awesome elders and we have had such a fun time!  Singing church songs and talking all while I tried to write this email!
I know that in my previous letters I have tried to express the deep gratitude that I feel for the chance I have had to serve in San Fernando, but I guess it is one of those things that words just can't seem to express. But I will forever be grateful for the time I have spent there. I didn't think that leaving an area could be harder than it was to leave Malaga.  I seriously think that was harder than leaving my family.  But I have been proved wrong yet again.
This area has proved to be a refiner’s fire for me, much more than I like to admit to.  I passed through some trying times here, maybe to others that would seem silly, but to me, they shaped me, molded me, and taught me so much more than I could have ever learned only receiving success.  Making this area, San Fernando in a way, holy ground for me.  The members here have taught me the commitment of a lifetime that being a member is, my investigators have taught me the importance of having complete faith in the Lord, and my companions have taught me how to smile through just about anything.  The Lord specifically has tried my commitment to diligence and obedience daily, and through that, I learned just how important they are. I know I am still not perfect, but I will leave here a much more humble and trusting servant of the Lord than the missionary I was when I came here.
It breaks my heart to be leaving this area just as the work has picked up, we recently found two investigators that I know will become stalwart members of this church. We have also worked with two other investigators since I have been here, who have made so much progress they seem to be leaving us in the dust. Saying goodbye to them, broke my heart. But I also know Hermanas Cole and Villamar will take great care of them and guide them down the path to baptism and the temple.
Alright before you think that I am just super depressed and hate everything, I really do love Murcia!  On my first couple days here I learned so much that it made me want to run back to San Fernando and do it over again! But Hermana Asay is teaching me so much and Murcia is beautiful.
Oh and skype. We will be skyping at 5:30 our time 9:30 your time. We hope we can do a google hangout so if you could get that all set up then tell me what I need to do to set that all up, that's would be stellar. But we can keep skype as a backup. Just a heads up. President has been super clear that this call should last no longer than 40 min :) so yeah.
I love you all so much!
Love Hermana Smalley  

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