Monday, November 25, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving! I'll have the fish.

Dearest Family and Friends,

Let´s all just take a moment to pause and realize that I am almost 5 months into my mission. WHATTTTT. Someone asked me when I would hit 6 months (Christmas day, by the way) and when I realized how soon it was I almost started to cry. Seriously. I´m almost crying just writing about 5 months right now!!!! Where did the time go and how can I get it back???

This week was really great. We all went to Porto again to have training with the assistants and interviews with President. Every interview we get a chance to ask him an ´inspired question.´ You only get one and that man is wise and so we all think about it weeks in advance. It came about time and I really didn´t even know how to word mine. I ended up just asking President how to do everything haha. There are so many people to visit, members, recent converts, less actives, investigators, the list goes on and on! He gave me a lot of good tips and such but the best thing he told me is that yeah, there´s a lot to do but if the Lord didn´t think I was capable to take care of this area He wouldn´t have sent me here. I hadn´t realized until that moment just how much I needed to hear that. There is SO much work to do, always! We work SO hard throughout the day and still have a million more things to do. It´s the work of SALVATION and I take it quite personally. I think this week what I learned a little better is to remember that I just have to do my best. I just have to try and contact as many people as I can, teach Sister Brundage the best I can (even though SHE´s practically training me here), teach with the Spirit the best that I can, and if I do the BEST that I possibly can that the Lord WILL make up the rest. He keeps showing me over and over again that He has His hand in our work here. He doesn´t show it by sending 100 baptism-ready people our way (as nice as that would be), but He NEVER fails to show me that He´s here, that He´s looking out for me and that He recognizes I´m doing my absolute best. I just hope you all know that I really feel that I am. I need to improve on a LOT of things, but that´s okay, those things will come. I also hope you just remember this lesson that I´m relearning for the one millionth time- we just have to do our best. Remember my obsession with the consecrated missionary talk? Well there´s a quote that says, ´I don´t believe that God expects perfection of us, but I do believe that He expects immediate progress.` So let´s just keep progressing okay?!

ANYWAY... this recent weeks I´m actually going to be out of my area a lot. Just in this past transfer we´ve had zone meetings, interviews, this week we have a mission tour conference with Elder Dyches, a seventy, and next week I´m going to Lisboa (ALONE. Yikes) to get my residency card! Lots of travel but it keeps things interesting. 

Fun facts from Portugal...well unfortunately Pedro, the guy we marked to be baptized disappeared from off the face of the earth. He didn´t show up to our next appointment with him and his phone doesn´t work. We tried tracking down his address but it doesn´t exist. The funny part of this all in all quite sad story is the hour we took trying to find his house. We found the road we thought it was and then started looking for the right house number. Well turns out Portugal has NO system for these things. As we´re passing houses we go by 500s, 200s, then all of the sudden it´s house #3, then we even saw a house that was #1875 AND #5. Out of all these numbers none of them turned out to be the lucky one. Obviously we´re disappointed about Pedro, but when he´s ready he´ll find the church again even if we´ll never find anyone´s address.

Other fun facts, this city has a MILLION cats. EVERYWHERE. Sister Swasey fun fact, I HATE CATS. But that´s okay, all part of the European experience? Outside of making friends with the animal life, we´ve also befriended a few of the city´s regulars. There´s a man we always see walking aroud whistling. We tried contacting him but he´s really not interested. We´ve ended up pals in the end however and we still get to enjoy the music. Another favorite is the castanhos man. He sells chestnuts on a street we pass a lot and he always gives us some when we pass. Again, not interested, but it´s fun to make friends right?

Anyway, got to go do some work and whatnot but I love you all and hope you  have an awesome thanksgiving! It´s not really a thing here so I´m sure I´ll be dining on more fish but that´s okay, Portugal is a pretty cool place to be in general.

5 months down (NOOOO), 13 more to go...

Com muito amor e abraços,

Sister Swasey

Monday, November 18, 2013

I'm in a mission full of miracles . . .

Queridas pessoas na minha vida,

Another week gone by so quickly! Where do I even begin? Let´s start by talking about how if I´m going to gain weight anywhere on the mission it is most certainly going to be here in Matosinhos. The members are so fantastic and feed us several times a week. Not just that, but they also think that we´re too skinny so they always ask us why we´re not eating more RIGHT after I put away a sold 2 or 3 plates of food. Sometimes they even put the food onto my plate for me so I can´t even say no. It´s really quite a hilarious situation to be honest and I always end up practically rolling out of there houses. Good news is I now know what Portuguese food is! Basically, it´s a lot of fish that still has it´s eyes and heads and bones and stuff. We get a lot of laughes because I really have no idea how to eat around all the tiny bones so I end up destroying the fish in general. The standard Portuguese dish is bacalhau, but we also eat a lot of carapau, sardines, and tuna. It´s pretty good stuff even though it´s still staring at me when I eat it. I´ve also noticed that practically every meal involves potatoes, cooked in all different sorts of ways, ALL good. At EVERY meal, dessert is also a necessity. So after they´re already loaded me with soup, fish, potatoes, and salad then they put these delicious desserts in front of me. Like I said, if I´m going to gain weight it will definitely be here!

In other news, it has been yet another week of miracles. The work is moving a little slower than I´d like but it´s picking up as we go. We´re working a lot more with the members and having more contact with recent converts and less actives which is nice. We also marked a baptism!!!! ...which now will have to be postponed because he didn´t come to church. His name is Pedro and he´s fantastic. He has incredible questions and is really ready to be baptized, he´s just a little nervous. His phone doesn´t work well so it´s been a little complicated getting in touch with him but we´ve made plans to track him down this week. (How did missionary work even HAPPEN without phones?!) But anyway, it just goes to show that even when we do EVERYTHING we can, we can´t take away people´s agency. Not that I want to, it just obviously makes me sad that I can´t do more sometimes to help people improve their lives. The greatest thing is, I still get so many reminders that Heavenly Father recognizes my efforts. Let´s be honest, I´m not doing everything right here. It´s my third transfer, I´m training, we´re still learning the language and all that so obviously I´m not quite the organized, experienced missionary I want to be and THAT´S OKAY. I´m really hitting a point where I feel like I´m doing all I can and He´s making up the rest, just like He always promises he will. So yeah, Pedro may take longer to be baptized, but we´re still working with our miracle investigator Luiz and he´s progressing really great and still going to church! Even just now, literally as we were doing our emails and such someone came up and asked us about the church and said he´d like to go with us!!! We´re having so many experiences that just don´t happen without some heavenly help. I guess if I´m learning anything here it´s just to work as hard as I can and do the best that I can and Heavenly Father WILL always make up the rest. I can´t say it enough, miracles are SO real!!!

Some other fun facts... oh! I´ve been getting pretty creative with my contacts on the street lately and honestly having a blast. The people up here in the Porto area are a little more closed off than down south and it was really starting to make me crazy those first couple weeks. But then I noticed that people were always SUPER nice when we asked for directions, way nicer than even just introducing ourselves as missionaries. So then we started doing a lot of GPS contacting, in other words, I´d pick a random place we might need to know about (post office, stores, whatever) and start by asking people where it is and then asking their name and slowly introducing ourselves and why two random Americans who don´t fully speak Portuguese are doing in Portugal. It has turned out to work pretty well and people are a LOT nicer! Sometimes we also extend our language study onto the street. Whenever I come across words I don´t know, I stop strangers on the street and just ask them what it means. A lot of times they don´t know, can´t explain or I don´t even understand the explanation but it´s gotten a lot of people to open up to us easier! So basically I´m learning that you just have to get creative here and the people really are super nice. 

Not much else to update really...I did my very first division this week with the sister trainer leaders...NERVE WRACKING. But it went super well and I learned a lot. It´s always so interesting to teach with other missionaries because everyone´s styles are so different but so good! Tomorrow we have interviews with President Fluckiger and man I´m stoked for some inspiration!!! 

I hope you´re all doing well! I think and pray for you often. Never hesitate to shoot me an email anytime, I love hearing from you all!!! Fiquem bem e saibam que eu vos amo BASTANTE. É verdade, vocês são incríveis e sinto muito falta de vocês. Fiquem firmes, fixes, e orem por mim ;) 

Com TANTO amor,

Irmã Swasey

Monday, November 11, 2013

Sotaques e Sonhos (Accents & Dreams)

Minha Querida Família,

Danielle & Pauliana
Oh life is just so so good. SO GOOD. Matosinhos is seriously promised land over here. I´m not going to lie, it´s been an insane couple weeks. We´ve been wandering around a lot, getting turned around, and having all sorts of adventures. Good news is we did some boss planning this past week and I´m feel super stoked for this next week. We have all in all awesome, attainable, difficult goals set and good plans to reach them. We´re slowly picking up our own investigators while continuing to try to work with the ones the elders left for us. I feel like I´m finally hitting my stride with training, whitewashing, and everything. 

Remember when I said that I´ve never worked so hard in my life? Well NOW I´ve seriously never worked so hard in my life. We have 3 hours of study during the morning, then an hour of language study after lunch so basically it´s a lot of time out of proselitismo, meaning we have to make every other hour count. We really hit the streets this week and talked with a bunch of people. I speak only Portuguese all day with Sister Brundage, in the house included and she´s learning really fast. I let her speak English for that last 30-60 minutes of the day after planning because I know how frustrating it is to got ALL day without being to completely express yourself. I´m mostly trying my best to teach her how to figure it out for herself, as in applying grammar she´s studied or figuring out cognates. She´s picking it up really quickly and I love that she´s not afraid to talk to people. 

This week was a week of miracles. We worked SO hard and a lot of things just weren´t working out. For instance, I accidentally locked us out of our phone Saturday night so that was stressful. We also couldn´t even call our investigators to remind them about church and so like nobody showed up, even people that really seemed elect. I was so heartbroken. Not discouraged but just sad because I really felt like I did all that I could to get people there. Then after sacrament meeting a member came up to me and asked me if I knew a Luiz because he´s not a member and he wasn´t with the elders. I went and met him and turns out he was a super fast contact we made in the street on like Tuesday! WHAT. I know right? This really was a miracle for us. Not only did he come but he stayed the whole 3 hours! Then, later that night we´re were waiting outside the church for a meeting and an amazing man basically contacted us! He asked a lot of amazing questions and we set up a follow appointment with him. It´s just like Heavenly Father is leading the people to us as we´re doing everything we can to find them. 

Danielle & Elders Costa, Grover & Perkins
This week I had a really amazing experience on the street. We tried contacting this man that had absolutely no interest, he just wanted to talk about how God, Christ, heaven, and all other related things make no sense because the world is terrible bla, bla, bla. When people talk like this and don´t want to hear anything we usually just leave a card with them and tell them they can call us if they need anything or have questions. So I started doing that, because this man wasn´t letting us get a single word in, when all the sudden I just started bearing my testimony. I don´t even really know what I said...I just started testifying that I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true church of God and the reason the world is messed up is because people aren´t following his teachings, often because a lot of them were lost after Christ died. It was something to that effect...about the restoration and whatnot. This man all of the sudden COMPLETELY changed. He let me mark down his address to pass to the missionaries where he lives and let us pray with him. After the prayer I swear I saw tears in his eyes. I don´t remember exactly what I said to him because it seriously wasn´t me saying it. The Spirit took over completely. It really reminded me of all the scriptures that tell us we won´t be confounded before men and the portion of the gospel that is needed will be given to us in the moment we need it. It was by far my most memorable, powerful contacting experience by far, not because my Portuguese was perfect or I answered all his millions of questions but because the Spirit spoke.

Speaking of Portuguese...GOOD NEWS. Switching gears a bit here but I don´t have much more time because we´re going to the beach soon. (I have a great life, I know) Yesterday, as I mentioned earlier was a little bit of a roller coaster that definitely ended on a high with all the miracles. Other pluses from yesterday all have to do with Portuguese! So yeah, I still have a MILLION words to learn and whatnot BUT...yesterday we were eating dinner with a family from the ward (fun fact, Baba de Camelo is a Portuguese dessert, mais ou menos the consistency of cake batter and literally means camel drool, DELISH despite the name). I was talking about how we´re been working really hard to speak Portuguese all day and Paula, on of the members said, ´you know you almost don´t have any accent at all right?` WHATTTT. I about cried. Then we stopped by another member, a 19 year old recent convert and I asked him to correct me whenever I said something wrong. He just looked at me and was like, ´When? You speak like a Portuguese person.`WHATTTTTTTTTT. I about died. I still have a little bit of a brasilian twang (thanks Sister Blanco... ;)) but he said it´s getting closer to a real Portuguese accent!!!! THE JOY IN MY SOUL HEARING THESE WORDS. But seriously, the work brings the most joy, but knowing I´m really nailing the language is the best perk there is. 

Well family and friends, keep it classy now. You´re all super swell and I hope this letter has brightened your days. Not much inspiration here I´m afraid but I´m off to eat some other random Portugal food, (frantozinhos? something like that....) and I´ll probably gain 100 pounds here. IT´S A GOOD LIFE.


Sister Swasey :)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Matosinhos, also known as Heaven

Queridas Pessoas Na Minha Vida,

So I have good news and I have bad news. Bad news...I´m pretty sure I died. Sorry about it everyone. The GOOD news is, I made it to the celestial kingdom!!!! Who knew it was really called Matosinhos and everybody speaks Portuguese there with funky northern accents??? 

Let´s talk seriously now, I literally think I just scored the greatest area in the entire mission, and that isn´t even all that biased. If you´re going to train and whitewash your third transfer I can´t even IMAGINE a better place to do it. Serio. Porto is GORGEOUS, first of all, you don´t even understand how beautiful and cool it is. We live on the 6th floor on a really cool street. Well, they´re all cool streets with neat shops and such. Our area is enormous so we haven´t even explored it all yet, but we´re gonna do a bajillion street contacts this week and get lost a million times I´m sure. 

Now, let´s just talk about the members here... First of all, THERE´S A WARD, A REAL WARD. I lovedddd Caldas and the adorable branch there but seriously...A WARD!!!!!!!!!!!!!! There´s like 100 people and it´s just magnificent. Church don´t even know. It was like I went home to the states and everyone just happened to speak Portuguese, with strange Porto accents. (Seriously, the accents up north are super funky, fingers crossed I pick it up because they´re sooo funny.) It´s all really well organized and well done, the Bishop is fantastic and so is the Ward Mission Leader (yep, we even have one of those!) Sunday school was sweet too because we don´t even have to teach the Principios do Evangelho class- THEY HAVE A TEACHER. What. Also, Relief Society? It was sweet, we got handouts and everything. IT IS LIKE AMERICA. EVEN BETTERRRR.

Also, Sister Brundage, my companion, is adorable. She´s so pumped to work and we´re already really great friends. She speaks pretty well and I´ve been trying really hard to just speak Portuguese like I did with Sister Blanco and the others. I´m sure she´s going to learn really quickly, and hopefully I will too haha. 

Sorry, can we just go back and talk about the members one more time? We´ve already eaten at 3 members house and we got here on Thursday night. WHAT. Not to mention we already have 2 more dinners planned for this week and Christmas plans. I´m sorry, but where am I?... Fun fact, Portuguese food is the bomb. Super great pastas, chicken, always rice, and they eat a decent amount of mushrooms, fried eggs, and carrots if anyone was curious. Also, a bunch of people have already sought US out and told us the times of the week they´re free to go to lessons with us. Seriously, is this real life?

In other news, we´re teaching the most elect Peruvian lady known to man. She accepts everything and I had my darling little trainee Sister Brundage invite her to be baptized. ACCEPTED. She´s super awesome, she´s married with a little daughter and speaks super great Espanguês haha. Shout out to good old Roberto, she´s from Lima in case you were wondering!

Did you think I was done? Not quite. We ALSO had a baptism yesterday!!!! Nazare, the nicest lady on the planet was baptized yesterday by her son, Pedro, also a recent convert. She was so patient with me as I tried to figure out my first baptism on my own and she has a really incredible testimony. Another fun fact about Portuguese people, ESPECIALLY Nazare, is they really do love to feed you. Everyone also thinks we´re too skinny so they load up your plate over and over and OVER again. Me, loving to eat, am more than happy to please them. Nazare just had us over to plan the baptism and we left full of sanduiches and cookies. You also seriously cannot say no to these people so you end up eating more than you think you can bear. It´s a hard life as a missionary but someone´s gotta do it!

Okay, but in all seriousness when they tell you a mission is the best and hardest thing you´ll ever do they weren´t kidding. It´s been an amazing week, but as you can imagine also pretty overwhelming. Overwhelming with goodness but still overwhelming! We´re spending a lot more time on our knees than ever before in my lifetime and I´m learning really quickly to depend on the Lord more than ever before. These past few days of running around trying to figure out the area and a baptism and training and the language have been crazy draining and at the end of the day it´s that faith in Jesus Christ that gets me through. I just hope you all know how much I love it here but also that it takes a LOT of work and I´m doing a ton of stuff I´ve never done before. The best part is though that no matter what, I know I can do it, not because I have the experience or knowledge or talent (not even close) but because I have the Salvador do Mundo at my side. So I guess what I´m saying is remember that, some days are going to be crazy hard or crazy good or just crazy in general, or all of the above! But that´s okay, it´s ALWAYS going to be okay because we´re where we´re supposed to be and we have the help of someone that´s already been through everything we´re going through. 

I love you all, shout outs to Grandpa Eubank, Sister Kite, Sister Ward, and whoever else I may be forgetting for the mail! Oh and hello to Sister Ward´s seminary class!!! Go on a mission, you´ll never regret it for a second!!!!!


Sister Swasey