Monday, December 30, 2013

Boas Festas!!!!

Queridas pessoas na minha vida,

WHAT A WEEK. First off all, getting to talk to your family on Christmas really is the GREATESTTTT gift of all. Tears of joy my friends, many tears of joy. It´s funny, SIster Brundage and I got off of Skype and felt the same way. Not homesick or anything, just more of a desire to WORK. And so rain, shine, festas, and everything that´s what we´ve been trying to do.

As for our 3 beloved boys who were supposed to be baptized... I don´t tell it to complain or to make you sad or anything but to keep you updated and tell you what it´s taught me and that is so many things. Basically, they´re amazing boys that just won´t commit to going to church at 9am every Sunday. It´s been so hard and we have done all we can but now we´re to the point where we´re just going to keep working with their mom the recent convert and her fiancé and hope they come around. People have their agency and there´s nothing we can do about that. It´s really hard and sad obviously but when I look back I feel okay because I know we did everything we could and I KNOW there is a reason for EVERYTHING. After we visited them yesterday we met a really amazing lady and talked to an incredible less active lady. I was still sad but it made me realize, maybe all of this led up to us helping one of these two ladies. In the mission, of course you want to teach and baptize and do all of that stuff we hear about, but in the end I´m realizing that if I made even just one person here feel a little bit of the love the Savior has for them then I´m doing my job. The Lord has his hand in everything I do and so I don´t worry and I really don´t get discouraged, I just look for His hand and I ALWAYS see it. 

But anyway, it really was a great week!!! The thing here in Portugal is everybody celebrates on Christmas Eve, which was interesting. We got permission to stay out until 11 and we went over to a members house with the elders. It. was. AMAZING. I have never eaten so much in my life. The traditional thing here is bacalhau and EVERYONE eats it on Christmas. I think it´s codfish? It was delish.

Sorry for the short email but I´m short on time! I promise a more informative or exciting one next week. Stay strong and wonderful people! The Lord has His hand in your lives too, that much I know for sure.

Bom ano novo!!!

Sister Swasey

Monday, December 23, 2013

Feliz Natal!!!!!

Dearest Family and Friends,

Can you believe it´s almost Christmas??? It´s strange being a missionary over Christmas. On one hand, it feels even more Christmasy because we talk about Jesus Christ all day and get to wish strangers on the street a Feliz Natal but on the other hand I almost keep forgetting it´s in two days because I´m not doing all the traditional stuff like gingerbread houses, jazzy Christmas music and penguins all around the house. It´s odd. Also, can we just pause and talk about the fact that I´m about to hit my 6 month mark on the mission?! My brain can´t handle that kind of news and nor can my heart. I´m about 1/3 done and yet I´m just getting started...I have SO much left to do, so many more people to help and goodness gracious SO much more to learn and improve upon. 18 months...IT´S NOT ENOUGH TIME PEOPLE. 

Sleepy & Dopey for the Ward Christmas Party

Ward Christmas Party
But anyway, let´s not dwell on the depressing and focus on the fact that I GET TO CALL HOME IN A COUPLE DAYS. Okay, I know I don´t get to talk to all of you but man, special shout out to Mom, Dad, Rob, Sam, and Kurt!!! I miss you all like crazy. Not the oh-my-goodness-I-want-to-go-home-I´m-so-depressed crazy but more like the MY-GOODNESS-IT´S-BEEN-WAYYYY-TOO-LONG-I-NEED-A-CHAT-WITH-MY-MOTHER-MY-POPS-AND-MY-BROS crazy. Ya know, the normal kind. So in other words, I´m practically counting minutes over here.  

Christmas Fun

Danielle & Sister Fluckiger
Love Sister Fluckiger!

Got to see Sister Prieto again

Let´s see fun facts of the week...We did our second division with the sister training leaders and it was pretty great! I went with Sister Silva to their area in Maia this time and man...she´s a pro. She teaches SO simply and so suave it really gave me a good example and I´ve been working even harder on my teaching skills. Fun fact for those of you in Ashburn, she served with Sister Jackson for awhile! I personally have only seen Sister Jackson once so far but who knows, maybe one day we´ll be in the same zone or something!  But anyway, the sisters area is HUGE. We took the bus like everywhere and it made me really grateful for my little Matosinhos. We also rode the metro in the a crowd of gypsies. I don´t know if I´ve evered mentioned gypsies before but in case anybody was doubting, they´re still around and there are a TON in Portugal. One of my life goals (in order of importance this settles nicely under stuff like serving a consecrated mission and marrying in the temple) is to obtain a pair of gypsy pants. The problem is you can only get them in certain areas of Portugal and the feiras (market/fairs). But anyway, you will all be notified immediately when I get my hands on some.

Off to the Christmas Festa

Porto Norte Christmas Festa
Another funny thing that happened on divisions was someone guessed that I was 30 years old. Ouch. The funny part is that this isn´t the first time and every time it´s happened before and this time the reasoning behind it is always the same. They never say that it´s because I look old (and it´s Portugal so trust me they´re not afraid to speak their minds) it´s ALWAYS because I´m tall.



So anyway, some people don´t know that you stop growing earlier or something I guess haha. 

Danielle and Sister Brundage!

One cool spiritual experience I had this week was with my dear Sister Brundage. I can´t even tell you people how much I love her. She´s FANTASTIC and even though we´re surprisingly different we get along really great and we push each other. It´s awesome how Heavenly Father does that, He gave me a companion whose strengths tend to line up quite nicely with my weaknesses. But anyway, one of these days this week I was just feeling kind of down and frustrated (ya know, it happens). I was ready to just get out of the house and work it off but she made me sit down and she just said, `Alright we´re just going to sit for 3 more minutes and say all the things we´re grateful for.` So cheesy, simple, and normal, right? But it was just what I needed. We just started listing, at first simple things, then more profound and more meaningful things. We talked about how grateful we were for our families, our missions, our challenges and by the end we were both crying like the crazy and emotional Sister missionaries that we are. It was so simple but it´s something I´ll never forget. We´ve all heard a million times to be grateful and count blessings but when we really sit down and do makes all the difference. I am SO incredibly blessed I can´t even explain it in words. I´m thankful for all of you, your support, my wonderful companion and this incredible season. Above all I´m thankful for my Savior. I´m thankful for this chance I have to serve Him with all my heart, might, mind and strength. 

Just don´t forget to notice all the little things, okay? :) I love you all and I hope you have an AMAZING Christmas!!!! Don´t forget to give Him something too. 

Wishing you all a Feliz Natal,

Sister Swasey

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Festas e *drumroll* BATISMOSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dear Official Sister Swasey Fan Club,

YES, you did in fact read that title right! First news of the week, and BEST news of the week is that we have THREE, (yes, you are really reading this correctly) THREE baptisms marked!!!!!!!!!!! Daniel, Bruno, and Diogo all committed to be baptized this week. Committed is even such a strange word to use, they all decided to with us, we barely even had to ask! THIS is my favorite part of the mission, watching people change right before my very eyes, it´s incredible. I wish you all could have seen them the first time, and even the second time that we taught them. I´ll come right out and say, HARDEST lessons of my mission those 2. I wanted so badly to reach them, show them we were normal teenagers too, show them we loved them and wanted to help them and do you want to know what happened those first two lessons? They all sat and texted, pretty much ignoring us. But you know what´s great? It doesn´t matter exactly what I do or who I am or any of that as long as we´re doing all we can to bring the spirit, that it´s there, and... it was! I felt it SO strongly and my dear Sister Brundage and I just sat there trying to teach them as people, real souls, praying and hoping they were feeling it too, even thinking that maybe they were but not knowing because let me tell ya teenage boys don´t like showing that stuff. Fast forward several weeks and they´re all pratically different people. We hadn´t even gone and taught them very much since they´re only with their mom on the weekend but all the sudden they wanted us to come over and like I said last week Bruno was asking to be baptized and they were all really listening. It´s like the difference between night and day!!! We had the BEST lesson with them this week, not just because we marked them but because it was hilarious. We taught the restoration, explaining the Book of Mormon better because we had only given it to them the time before. They all had their own book out and Bruno and Diogo were flipping through them throughout the lesson. They were asking a lot of relevant questions throughout but also a ton that I didn´t even know how to answer! By the end I had explained parts about the gold plates I´d never thought I would ever need to, discussed the house of Israel, and had said the words `I don´t know, I´ve never seen that particular movie about Jesus before` several times. They were a riot and I loved every minute of it. By the end, we asked Bruno if he still wanted to be baptized and he said YES. Then we asked Diogo what he thought and was just like `Yeah me too.` Daniel is the oldest and we didn´t even ask him, I looked over and he was just like, `yeah I´ll be baptized too.´ We walked out of that house on a cloud!!!!

Silly Zone Picture

Danielle's Zone
Other fun facts of the week, we had our Christmas party yesterday! It was just our zone of Porto Norte and the Porto zone but it was super fun! Craszy story, on Sunday afternoon I get a call and my dear Brasilian zone leader tells me that Sister Brundage and I would be singing at the Christmas conference the next day. Well fastfoward a couple hours of practice, finding a pianist literally 15 minutes before it started, and we whipped out a quite nice Quando o Anjo Proclamou, (First Noel). WHAT FUN. It really was. Then we played some games and exchanged hilarious gifts. 

Fun culture facts include: At Christmas everybody has these funny Santas that they hang out their windows like he´s climbing in. Also, a TON of people have kind of interesting big flags in their windows with a very Catholic looking baby Jesus and words like, `Nasceu Jesus.`It´s pretty interesting to see them all around with the Santas haha, they make a nice pair. 

One fun fact about the people, whenever I don´t wear one, so many people tell me I need to wear a scarf. It´s super random I know, but I have had so many people tell me it´s too cold outside (even when it´s not) and that I need a scarf. Best part- they tell me even when Sister Brundage isn´t wearing one! These people are the funniest and the greatest. (Do I have a giraffe neck or something? Too funny). 

As for the language, man is it coming along!!!! I don´t really know what ´fluent´ means because really, how do you define that? BUT....whatever it is I have to think I´m getting pretty close which is absurdly exciting for me! I pretty much understand everything, except some words of course, and I can express myself better each day. The gift of tongues is so real and I feel such power and comfort from it as I can speak comfortably with people in PORTUGUESE. Yesterday I just about cried of joy when a member told me she sometimes almost forgets I´m American because I don´t really have an accent or anything. Seriously. I. About. Died. It´s probably the international relation/language major in me partly but seriously what a compliment. I don´t know if this tall blonde sister can ever really pass for a Portuguese person but maybe by the end I can convince people by phone haha, we´ll see! Oh! I also had another freak out moment early on in the week because I`VE STARTED DREAMING IN PORTUGUSE. It´s true people. Sister Swasey is really learning a language, what a rush. 

Well, here´s to wishing you all the a VERY merry Christmas! I love you all and miss you tons! I wish I could spend all my Christmas talking to each and every one of you but believe me when I say at the very least I talk to Heavenly Father about you EVERY day. I´m doing His work and I know He´s looking out for you all for me. This IS His work, it´s His gospel, and Christ is His only begotten Son. Remember Him, all that He did for us! Enjoy the season, enjoy the snow if you have it, and just remember how much I love you all!!!! 

Abraços, beijinhos, e MUITO amor,

Sister Almost-Portuguesa-Swasey ;)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Walking in a Mission Wonderland


So anybody else excited for Christmas because I certainly am! We found a Christmas tree in our apartment and it´s a little better quality than Charlie Brown´s so I´m happy. 

Thank you Misty & Fam
Thank you Tina & Fam
 Big shout out and tons of hugs (or handshakes for you men out there) for all those of you that have mailed me stuff or emailed me. I have NEVER gotten to a meeting nor passed through the office without having at least something waiting for me and let me tell you, not that it´s really that important as a missionary, it certainly makes my day to know you people are thinking about me. I think of you always!!!

I don´t have a ton of time because we went to a festival today! They had cool stuff from all the different parts of Portugal. Try not spending money there, I dare you. 

This week was a great week. We´ve been teaching the sons of a recent convert Ana Bela. She is fantastic and has an amazing testimony. Her sons, Diogo, Daniel, and Bruno are all teenagers. They have come along way since when we first started teaching them and Bruno and Ana Bela´s fiance Joaquim even came to church with us this week! Bruno also has mentioned a couple times now that he thinks he wants to be baptized so expect some baptism pictures coming up here soon ;)

In other news...starting thinking a bit in Portuguese! I catch myself remembering things that happened in the past (in English of course) but I think about what the people said in Portuguese. Weird but amazing, am I right? 
View from Danielle's apartment

View from Danielle's Apartment
No time to write but to sum it up? Love my mission, love the people, love the culture, love the language, LOVE my companion and can´t even tell you all how much I love my Savior and this chance I have to serve Him for 18 months. 

Have a wonderful week!!!!

Com BASTANTE amor,

Sister Swasey

Monday, December 2, 2013

Sister Swasey on Embracing Portuguese Culture

Queridas pessoas que eu amo TANTO,

How are your lives?! Somebody write me and email or something and tell me what´s going on where you all are!!! How was your Thanksgiving?! Fun fact: I forgot about Thanksgiving. Sister Brundage and I didn´t remember until Friday morning and then we felt like bad americans and ate some Portuguese cookies and started studying. (You're welcome for that little look into my life, get mildly sad, eat a cookie, and get to work) Isn´t that so odd to think about though, forgetting Thanksgiving? Life of a missionary in Portugal I suppose! But anyway, hope you all ate a lot of turkey and pumpkin pie for me!
Sister Brundage & Danielle
WHAT a fantastic week I had by the way. For a start, we had the mission tour this week with Elder Dyches of the Seventy. What a genius. He taught us SOOOO many various things, but something that stuck with me the most is something I think about a LOT. He had all of us ask ourselves several questions all having to do with what we want to be when we´re done with our missions. I ask myself that question a lot- what do I want to be able to say I´ve done when I´m on that plane heading home? What kind of a person will I have become? What changes will people see in me? 18 months people. It´s so little time to do all the work and all the changing I want to do. I really hope that when I come home you´ll see a difference in me. I hope you´ll feel more the love that I have for each and every one of you and that you´ll know without a doubt that I know our Saviour loves us and that I served a faithful mission for his church. I hope you´ll see a light in my countenance, I hope I´ll know His gospel so much better. I hope a million and a half things and I hope you know that I´m working hard because I want you all to be blessed for my service as well. I´ve never worked hard in my life, nor have I ever noticed so many things I want to improve about myself. Being a missionary means everything to me and I just hope that I can give my all and that if will be enough to help the people here and bless all of you as well. The Lord expects our´s a lot but nothing less will suffice and nothing less will bring us that eternal joy He´s promised us!!!!
Danielle & Her comp, Sister Brundage

But anyway...learned a LOT from Elder Dyches and the week just kept getting better. We saw even more miracles this week, one of which we like to call Armando. We were walking to an appointment when this man stops us and asks us if we´re mormons. Then he asked us if he could come to church and learn more about what we believe because he really hasn´t like all the other churches he´s tried. WHAT. This never happens. NEVER HAPPENS. So OF COURSE we said YES COME TO CHURCH WITH US (before you get your hopes us he had to work the Sunday but we´re going to teach him this week). He was even excited to come when we said that it started at 9 in the morning and he asked us what he should wear. It was the COOLEST. Seriously, I don´t know what we did to deserve Heavenly Father putting someone like Armando in our path but I´m so grateful. We testified that this IS the true church and it´s where he´ll find the answers to his questions and we said a prayer with him right there in the road. He loved that we prayed from the heart and is just so genuinely excited to talk to us. We walked away from that contact almost in tears from joy and we just kept saying `They exist!!!` (as in ridiculously prepared people that seek you out) Love my job people, LOVE IT.

Now to explain the title of the email...Portuguese people don´t really have personal space and it´s really quite hilarious. They touch each other´s faces an interesting amount of time and they are often hugging and barging in on each other and such. Well...this week getting to church was an adventure in which I really broke some boundaries (for a good cause). Pedro, the 19 year old recent convert, and his mom Nazaré are fantastic. Nazaré was our baptism the first week but because of a lot of complicated stuff she still hadn´t gotten confirmed because they hadn´t gone to church. So we got up and hour early and went to their house to go together. When we got there, she told us that Pedro wasn´t going and she wasn´t going without him. We were crushed...but we´re great friends with Pedro so I asked if we could talk to him. Turns out, he was just being lazy. I felt like such a mom, I gave him 5 more minutes to sleep and then I straight up told him that he was going to get up and go to church with his mother. The minutes passed and we went back in. He was still super lazy so....I may or may not have started singing and clapping and stole his blanket. Long story short, THEY CAME TO CHURCH and I embraced some Portuguese culture of very few personal boundaries. 

It's a great life in Portugal!
Side note: thank goodness for the gift of tongues because I´m realizing it´s almost impossible to get to know people and have these great friendships if you can´t talk to them. But Pedro and I are pals even after that adventure so shout out to the gift of tongues in the end really.

A heart attack & a half
In other news we had dinner with the bishop´s family and he is the GREATEST. It was really great to get to know them and I feel so much more united in the cause now. He asked us all about our families, what callings our parents have, and even if we had boyfriends. Too funny. He LOVES missionary work and literally told us that if we ever need him for a lesson he´ll cancel everything to go with us: His daughter, laughing, also told us that he wrote a list to Pai Natal for Christmas and asked for 7 more baptisms this month. I told him we´d see what we can do to help out Pai Natal!

I wish I could just tell you all EVERYTHING but I have to go pack to head down to Lisboa for my residency stuff! Thinking and praying for you all ALWAYS. Stay firm, stay fixe, and write me lots of letters and emails ;) 

Abraços e beijinhos,

A Mais Louca Irmã na Missão