Tuesday, November 15, 2016

6 Areas, 12 Companions, 18 Months!

November 14, 2016

Dearest family,

Well here it is, it still doesn't seem real but President already told me they really are kicking me out soon. I need
to apologize - my last p-day will be spent in meetings and baptizing G. So we don't have tons of time to write so I'll see what I can do. 

Alright so last Monday was consejo! I still don't really believe it. It was a completely different consejo from the one I first came into, but it was incredible. The Spirit was so strong the whole time. I honestly was so scared to give my taller because I didn't want to ruin the Spirit. But I started my taller doing something that set mission history. I made an Elder bench press with four different spotters talking about what kind of leaders we were going to be. It went well I think. We also got to see the new Christmas initiative! I am literally so excited because it is something I can do at home. So watch out family! I'm planning on hitting the ground running. 

Honestly it was such a special and bitter sweet experience. I cried more than I ever have in my mission because it finally hit me, that I actually have to leave this beautiful country and these wonderful people I love so much. There was a time that President asked us to take off our chapas (name tags) and just look at them. So many things came rushing to my mind. I remember my last dinner at home where Joe talked to me about what it means to wear our families name right over Christ's on our heart all day, every day. Yes, I cried. My whole mission I have tried my best to live up to my Savior's name, to never do anything that would shame Him while I was His representative.  And that I could live up to the name of our family and make those on both sides of the veil proud. It was such a tender moment to just sit and reflect and be able to just feel so much gratitude in my heart for the mission I have been given and not be sitting there wishing I had done it better. Even as I wrote this, I drew so much comfort from the fact that I do not need to give up the honor of wearing my Savior's name. I covenanted to do that already.  Even if others cannot read it, I hope to always live up to the two names that will always follow me. Chapa or no. 

After consejo there was the normal lío of pictures and goodbyes. I managed to put off the worst goodbyes for
last, but saying goodbye to sweet Elder Rivero broke my heart. But after consejo we had a tender moment where all of the people still there just sat down and chatted and enjoyed the spirit of the mission home. Then we got into a meeting with President where we finalized transfers and my favorite quote from that meeting came from President, "I won't tell you the new AP, I won't give away the upper hand!  You all have out shown me too much! If I don't hold some cards close, you might replace me!" We laughed so hard and then he told us anyway. I love President Andersen. Then we all sat down and had lunch and got to chat some more. Then we all got into the car and went to the airport to greet some new couple missionaries. It was so fun to just hug them and tell them how much fun they were going to have. Then we hopped on the cercanías and got back in time to work that night. 

We got to teach A again. Man he is so awesome! Progressing so well, I know that Hermana Peters is gonna take good care of him. Then we had our last noche de Hogar with L and E and M and G. It was so fun we got to talk about family history work. I'm so pumped to get going on that when I get home. 

Wednesday was supposed to be just a normal day, but after our first cita, Hermana Portas told me that her ear was hurting a lot. So we called Hermana Frost. She told us to go to the hospital, so we went got some meds and that was that. That night we had  a great time running around and doing citas and teaching people. We were so blessed this week to be able to teach so many people!

Thursday, last weekly planning. Yay! We started and then everyone in the world decided to call us. So we had to take care of a few things before we could get down to it. But then C and F took us out to lunch at a restaurante. I don't even remember the last time I ate at one of those. It was super good and we had a great time. I love those two so much! That night we went to the ER again for my companions ear. They told her more of the same... so yeah. 

Friday we had zone meeting. It was so good! I got to give a taller and a final testimony which was so strange. I
remember all of those missionaries who have always given them every zone meeting, so strange to think that I am one of them now. We all went out to eat at our favorite Bolivian restaurant after that and we had a grand old time. 

Saturday was my last full day of work. It was crazy but we loved it. You want to know why? Because almost every plan failed. We laughed because of course it wouldn't be any other way - it was so fitting for a last day. We also got to meet with G one more time before his baptism. He made me cry because he told us that his baptism was going to be unforgettable. Then he turned and looked at us and said, " Thank you. Thank you for teaching me, just thank you for everything". It got me. We all shared our testimonies and it was one of the sweetest moments of my mission. We also got to meet with S one more time that night. He has come so far in a year and I hope to hear that he keeps going! 

Sunday was such a bittersweet day. Church went really well.  A came and he loved it!  We were going to go to class with him but the bishop asked us 2 min before if we would be willing to teach the jóvenes (youth). So we taught them about how to be a Christlike missionary. It was so special to be able to talk to them and just tell them that it was my last Sunday and I didn't regret a moment of it. Then we bore our testimonies in sacrament meeting.  Then at the very end of the meeting the Bishop called Elder Bussell and I up to the stand. We were so confused, but we went up. Then the whole congregation stood and sang, God be with You till We Meet Again. I cried like a little girl. It was so tender. I love these people so much! They have forever blessed my life. 

Sunday night was a rush of meetings and numbers and eating with the Canos. It was a great day! 

Upon request these are some thoughts. But I honestly cannot do it justice. I plan on writing a little bit more later. 

This mission has been such a wonderful experience. I have been so grateful for every moment that I have been able to spend here. It is so interesting how those words can become so hollow isn't it? We say them so much they lose their meaning, but I really feel that the words that I want to use to express just how much my mission has meant to me, will never suffice. I remember a couple letters back I wrote you about what I had learned in each of my areas and I finished telling you that we would yet see what Malaga 1 was trying to teach me. Well I am sure I haven't learned all of the lessons just yet, that will come with time and refection on my precious time spent here. I have learned one major lesson that has changed my life. 

I have learned how to rely on my Savior. I have learned that having faith in Him means taking life as it comes, with a smile on my face, because I know I can handle what is sent, if I just recognize that I cannot do it alone. My whole life I have turned away, trying to do it on my own, trying to prove that I am independent. But there is such beauty in our total dependance on God and on Jesus Christ. I have learned that His love always surrounds me. 

Before my mission I thought I knew my Savior, I thought I knew him because I had felt his love come in and wipe away guilt and shame and lift me up. But on my mission I have really come to know my Savior. I have learned that His love is not conditional on my successful performance, because I have felt it lift me up during my biggest failures. I have felt His love come to me when I know I didn't deserve it, and I have felt His love as He has shown me, bit by bit, who He knows I can become. I have never thought someone could love me so much as to think I can become all that He thinks I can become. What I have realized is that it is my love that is shown through action. His love is always there, but my love is shown by the use of my agency in the way He taught. I hope to continue using my agency in a way that will please Him.

I gave this my best. It is hard to believe that this time can become more of a treasure for me than it is already, but I know it will. I don't need to tell you that when I get home I plan on hitting the ground running. There is no time to go back. I want to continue to show God that He can trust me, even outside of the schedule and demands of the mission. 

All my love,

Hermana Smalley

Thursday, November 10, 2016

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

November 7, 2016

Dearest family,

Well it's true! Spain took a turn for cold and I'm finally believing that it is November. The orange trees that line the streets of Malaga are full of oranges and the streets smell like citrus. It's like the whole city is decorating itself for the season. The lights have gone up and the little roasted chestnut stands have also popped up everywhere. It truly is a magical time to be in Malaga. 

It has been another wonderful week here in Spain and the transfer madness has begun. I don't remember how
save the rest for another day. So come this year I was pretty nervous about what Halloween would bring. Turns out it was an awesome day! I told you we ended Pday early so we could have a meeting with President. We had a 4 hour meeting talking about just about everything and we were about to head back to Malaga when Hermana Andersen asked us if we wanted some chillie. Of course. So our cute little family sat down and ate chillie together. Then President Andersen brought out American candy in honor of the holiday. Then we drove into Fuengirola and President dropped us off at the office so we could take care of some business. Well, as we rang the office door we all switched our chapas and held up our book of mormons and yelled "trick or treat!" The office staff got a kick out of it and we had to run to catch the train back to Malaga. 

Tuesday we had district meeting. I knew Elder Bussell had a taller about weekly planning and I won't lie to you, I was less than enthusiastic. Like I have said before, Weekly planning, not my favorite. But he gave an amazing taller that made me repent and helped me get a little excited for planning Thursday morning. After we went with the other
district to a Thai restaurant. It was super good. And we all had a great time. I didn't realize it at the time but that was my last district meeting. Pretty sad but I've had an awesome run. After that we met with G. We asked him if he had talked with his parents yet. He started looking at the ground and asked if we would be willing to go with him to ask. We assumed that meant he hadn't asked, so we set the cita. Then slowly he started to smile and while still looking at the ground he said. "I think she is going to say yes!"  He then told us he had talked a little bit with his mom and he got what he called a 50% yes. We freaked out and wanted to hug him - but we didn't, don't worry, we didn't!  Then while we were teaching another lesson the Hermanas from Sevilla arrived to do intercambios (exchanges) . I was finally able to be companions with Hermana Hauber. Oh my goodness!  I love her to death. We went and got to teach M and Hermana Hauber taught lesson one in a way that I had never seen before. I loved it. Then we ran back and did a lesson with L and G. Barcelona was playing that night and normally that means G doesn't come. But he came! We taught about tithing using chocolate and it was super fun. Good night. 

Wednesday we got to eat paella for the second time. Yay! Then the moment came. We went walking to G's house. That 15 min walk was the longest walk of my life!! When we got there he was outside waiting for us and we went in together. We talked it through with his mom and SHE SAID YES!!! We wanted to yell scream cry, you know, the whole thing. But in the end we just said a very heartfelt prayer of gratitude. We scheduled his baptism for the 14th. Tender mercy. I hope it all works out. You know with these things, I'm never calm until they are under the water. Then we had an an awesome noche de Hogar and G and P both came! We got to teach P after about the plan of salvation. He is awesome. The mission is awesome. 

I survived weekly planning! It was actually a super good one. Then we headed out to C and F. Carla's husband never comes home to eat when he know the missionaries are there because he isn't a member. But this week she didn't tell him we were coming! So we sat there super scared waiting to surprise attack him. It was super funny, but it went so well. We had another pallea and talked about water polo - you know some of my favorites. 

We shared Exodus 4:2 with them. This was right after Moses received the command to free the slaves in Egypt. Pretty daunting task. He had asked God how on earth he was going to get the people to follow him and when God asked him what he had in his hands he responded simply " a rod."  I imagine he said it just a little discouraged thinking," now what on earth am I going to do with this rod?"  And how often do we have the same feelings?  When we are called to do something we look at the sum of our talents and resources and are discouraged because all we see is a useless rod.  But we encouraged them to remember all that God did with that rod. Miracles! Now think of all he can do with a willing heart and your talents. Incredible, eh? 

That night we got to meet with A again and we taught him the word of wisdom. It was awesome! When we finished his first and only question was, " so this is a requirement to go to the celestial kingdom?"  Allí vamos casi! (Here we go!)  It was adorable really. We also taught S about the 2000 stripling warriors.  I'm being told I love scripture stories a little too much while teaching, but hey, God gives us the why in the commandments and the how in the story, right? He also gave us polverones and since Hermana Portas doesn't like them, I'll be bringing them home for all of you. I love them. 

Friday normal wonderful missionary day not much to report. Saturday, we started stake conference!  It was awesome!  G came and I mostly just loved seeing so many saints together in one chapel. It always brings a special spirit. After stake conference, President wanted to talk for a few minuets. We had an hour long meeting which ended in Hermanas Smalley and Portas running through the streets of Malaga, after the hour, trying to get home. All in a day! 

Just so you at home can come to love President Andersen as much as we do, here's a highlight from the meeting: President told us about one of his friends who gets up every morning and looks in the mirror and yells, " I'M SO EXCITED!  I just can't take it!  I can't wait for tomorrow because I just keep getting better looking every day!"  And yes he did demonstrate it. It had us all dying of laughter. 

Sunday morning we got up and met President and Hermana Andersen at the church and drove to Granada for the rest of stake conference. It was incredible!  Seriously, seeing this huge chapel full of saints from all over made me all emotional.  Hermana Portas and I were asked to translate the meeting. .... so you remember how I told you this massive stake center was full! Yeah. We had to translate! 😅 it was actually a mission dream of mine but I didn't think it would be on such a huge scale. It is hard! Listening and talking at the same time. I just had to picture that the only person listening was Hermana Andersen and it went okay.  But because we were translating, we got to sit up on the stand and it was powerful to be able to see everyone. After the meeting I was trying to avoid everyone who looked like they spoke English because I was so embarrassed.  But Hermana Frost came up to me and hugged me and thanked me for doing such a good job. So I think it went well. 

Also highlight of stake conference. I got to see Brielle! Or Hermana Twede as she is known here in Spain! It was
funny because Hermana Matsu is here as well and she played for Utah county. Yeah, they hate us. But no biggie - we are all on the same team now!  We had an awesome talk about water polo. Then we drove home with President. Oh man, it was so fun!  We were driving just chatting away and then president gasps.  Hermana Andersen asked him what he forgot. He looked at us and said, " I forgot to drop you off!"  We realized that we had passed Malaga 20 min ago and we're almost to the mission home. Fun stuff. That night we did numbers and got to teach a new person. 

Today we left early to go get the "man talk" from Elder Frost. Man, it was good. He reminded me that when I get home the first person I'm gonna meet is me. And suddenly 1.5 year old Hermana Smalley is gonna come face to face with 19 year old Erinn Smalley.  And Hermana Smalley is gonna need to fight that Goliath. I just hope that I can apply what I have learned and not just come back the same as I was. Believe it or not, I have made loads of changes that I think are for the better! So please be patient with me. 

Consejo is tonight so that should be fun. 
Love you all so much! 

Hermana Smalley. 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The most bittersweet Baptism

October 31, 2016

Dearest family,

Um what happened to last week? Seriously time just keeps flying by whether I like it or not. So I'm just trying to enjoy the ride, you know? Also just an FYI apology I am typing this on a computer that has spanish spell check... so my normal horrid spelling, aun peor.

Last Monday we got to go to be with Obispo Padilla again! We kinda just crashed at his house and talked about life and all the mysterious things that one normally talks about with Obispo Padilla. We also enjoyed M's wonderful food and just got to relax which was honestly so needed. We actually felt ready to take on the week at the end of 
P-Day.

After we finished P-day we went to F´s house and we read with him about Enos and talked about the importance of prayer. It is always so amazing to me all the problems that this one little practice can solve. If we can really develop a relationship with God through prayer He will be able to pick us up and comfort us in the worst times, and amplify our joy in the best of times. We also got to teach my good friend A. We taught him all about the plan God made just for him, well everyone else too, but He loved it. He said it all made perfect sense. We also asked him if he had read the Book of Mormon, and he told us that he had almost finished the first part. We thought he was talking about the first chapter of Nephi, but in fact, he was talking about the first book of Nephi and he loved it.

That night we ran into a cute joven from mexico name Y, and it made me think a lot of Joel. We are going to teach her later in the week, but I am pretty excited about it. Also this week our zone leaders did a huge emphasis on finding futures, Hermana Portas and I have honestly been running around so much that our contacting has been suffering a little. But we decided that we were going to improve, so we set some goals and basically were trying to contact the whole world this week and it was so FUN. We had so many funny experiences and met so many wonderful children of God. I have been amazed at just how good most people are and have developed such a love for my brothers and sisters (and for those of you who knew me before the mission, you know that I really struggled with that before the mission) and besides that one guy who stole my wallet, I have been so surprised with the genuine goodness of the people that surround us. I feel like the news would have us think that the whole world is falling apart and that humans are the worst, but in reality there are good people everywhere just doing the best they can in a crazy world. And even that guy whole took my wallet, I love him. I'm sure he really needed those bus passes. Also, our passion for contacting might have come from our small fear of our new zone leader, Elder Maldonado. Just kidding!  He is literally awesome, so motivated and wants the whole zone to give everything, he has been a zone leader for 4 weeks now and I have been nothing but impressed by what he has done - well impressed, and yes, a little scared, hence lots of contacting!

Tuesday it was more of talking to the whole world, and we also had a wonderful district meeting, I was so embarrassed because the whole time I was coughing up a storm, but we laughed about it later. That night we got to meet with a less active member. He talked to us about how since his baptism he has fallen back into a lot of old habits that he knows are wrong, but he doesn't feel like he has the strength to stop.  And because of those habits, he feels like he cannot come back to church. I have been so surprised at how effectively Satan has used that lie to keep so many people from coming to church. We all have our failings, we all have our problems that we are working on, and in reality not one of us is worthy of all the blessings we receive upon coming to church.  How merciful that God didn't leave it up to us! He told us to come, and gain strength from Him to overcome our problems. I have been amazed at how quickly things go downhill when we forget to do the simple things, read, pray, and come to church. How on earth could we hope to overcome our stronger trials if we aren't doing the small things? That night we got to teach G about fasting with L - it was awesome.

Wednesday we were in meetings all day. Yay. We talked with President about the consejo that is coming up. We were talking about a couple different things we could address with all the leaders and who would present each topic.  We had been talking about 5 different topics and we had a great discussion going, and then President stopped and said, "Perfect!  Hermana Smalley, why don´t you talk about that."  We all kinda stopped and looked at each other and asked, "Well which one?" and President said, "All of them!" 😨 So we will see how that goes. That night we got home with 15 min left of the night. So we contacted. We were walking through a part of an area that all the homeless people sleep, so we try to keep our heads down and avoid it at night. As we were walking we were surprised to see a well dressed man sitting on a bench, he looked like an extranjero and thinking that he might not know that danger of the area he was in, we went to go chat with him. He addressed us in English and we had an awesome chat with him.  Turns out he did know exactly where he was, he had been robbed that week!  I could sympathize.  He also had just lost his job and was now out on the streets until his next job began this week. We had an awesome lesson, just goes to show, you never know who you will find.

Thursday we had weekly planning, any time I feel like I am going to break because I am so sad that the mission is ending, I remember that I won't have to weekly plan and it sometimes makes me feel better.  I have no idea why, I just started detesting weekly planning so much... but I would do it for another year, everyday, if it meant I could stay.  Enough sad talk. We weekly planned, then got on a bus and went to eat with C and F, nothing too much to report there except that F told me he will be spending Christmas in New Jersey, and I about died!  The holidays in Manhattan, oh my!  So lucky.

We got back a little late because the bus takes so long, but when we got back we had intercambios with Hermana
Brown and Hermana Pastrana from Murcia. It was awesome to be with those two!  We went to teach A again and taught him Lesson three and got to talk about baptism, so much fun. Then we walked all the way out to C's and got to teach her.  Right at first, things just weren't quite right, and I felt strange about jumping right into the lesson, so we just talked a little bit about the Savior and tried to just give her some love. After a while she started laughing and the lesson ended up going well. I am just so grateful for the Spirit, so that we don't have to try to teach these people alone, but we had the Spirit whispering over our shoulder what each of them needs. Hermana Brown and I also got to talk a lot. I love that lady and I am so impressed by her strength in all that she is overcoming and working through. She constantly reminds me of my many blessings.

Friday morning I was with the lovely Hermana Pastrana. I have heard so much about her I was so excited to finally work with her. She is also from Mexico and I honestly was left in awe by how awesome she is! The way she talks to people and teaches is so natural and fun, she got me excited to head what message we were going to share with the people even though I already knew. We got to teach S about the temple and help him get all excited about going. If it didn't work too well for him, it sure worked for me!  I miss the temple so much! 

That night we met with F again and he told us all about his white shirt and tie he was going to wear to church. It was so tender. Then we got to go teach J (G´s sister) and got to talk to her mom a lot which was so good - we are finally forming a relationship with them. Then we got to teach a new friend, P. I don´t think I have ever taught someone so catholic before. But he loved church and loved what we had to say about the Restoration. We are working on helping him understand it a little bit better. 

Saturday morning we had the bitter sweet baptism. R and S are two friends of the elders that we have all worked really hard to help. Hermana Portas and I have been teaching them in English, and the FHE that we do and all the missionaries here love them so much!  They are a cute young couple from Boliva and their son L, who is 7, is adorable. Anyway, we went all out on their baptism. I let S wear my white dress and we just tried to make it as special as possible. It was the most beautiful baptism I have ever been a part of!  They both bore the most wonderful testimonies that I have ever heard. R actually made me cry, because starting to read the Book of Mormon was a bit of a struggle for him, and Hermana Portas and I really worked with him on that. He got up and talked about how he had always believed in God but struggled to believe in the God the Catholic church teaches of, or even the God of the Old Testament - a  God who only punishes if we don't follow him. With tears in his eyes he held up the Book of Mormon and told of the God that Jesus teaches of in the Book of Mormon and the New
Testament. He told us how he had found the God he worships in this church and that he knew that the Book of Mormon was true. I literally cried because I remembered Mom sharing her testimony, with almost those exact same words before my mission. S´s testimony was equally beautiful as she talked about how alone they were when they first moved from Bolivia and how Elder Quispe talked to them and showed them a new family. Now you might be asking, Hermana Smalley, that just sounds like a sweet baptism where does the bitter come from?  Les muestro. Because of a family emergency right after their baptism they were confirmed and then they had to move. They just moved to a little town outside of Barcelona. So their baptism was the last time I got to see them. Yes I cried like a little girl. It was so sad to have to say goodbye to such incredible people. As we sang the closing hymn I was conducting, I looked up and saw Rodrigo showing little L how to read the music and sing the hymn and it got me again. I know that this little family is going to do incredible things.

That night we also got to meet with G, who still hasn't been able to talk to his parents, but he told us that if it were up to him, he would get baptized tomorrow. So we are going to talk with his parents with him and see how it goes. 

Sunday I got a whole lot of animo to go home and help Grandma Erb with family history work. So just get ready people! I can´t wait to help as much as possible to help our family get all the blessings of the Gospel! Then we went and ate with E, which is always so fun, and we ate giant shrimp - you know shrimp with the head and legs still on. A personal favorite... Then back to the church, as we put numbers in our phones started ringing like crazy. Turns out with the new area book, it messed up how we put in our numbers, so we were calling around the mission trying to get it all worked out, and Hermana Portas and I ended up putting the numbers for every area in one by one. When we finished, it turns out our 2 hour project didn't save... more phone calls and well, just a big headache!  But it all got worked out. 

Today to celebrate my 3rd to last Pday, we have a meeting with President. yay.

Love you all so much, this work is incredible and I will allways be so greatful that God lets me be a part of it.

Hermana Smalley