Monday, May 26, 2014

Go To The Place.

Olá a todos :)

Every week on the mission my testimony grows a little more, step by step up this crazy staircase of life. This week, however, my testimony jumped up a whole FLOOR of stairs. This week changed my entire life.

Every time I sit down to write to you all, in all honesty, the only things I can remember are the amazing, funny, spiritual, miraculous moments and so that´s what I try to write. But I know that nobody´s fooled, you all know that this is the hardest thing that I´ve ever done, and it really is! The thing is, at the end of each week the miracles always stand out way past the sad, frustrating, crazy, hard moments. This week, however, the sad, frustrating, crazy, hard moments WERE the miracles. I´ve been praying a lot before writing this email so I really hope that you feel something when you read it. This week I want to be that much more open, personal, real with all of you and show you how much the mission really does touch my own personal life, converting me more and more every week. So as I tell you about this week, maybe this isn´t the email to read on your iPhone in traffic but rather with your families, with your scriptures out, with a prayer in your hearts because I´m really really hoping that the conversion experience I had this week will touch you all in some way or another.

Let´s start from the beginning then, shall we? Going into this week, Antunes was marked to be baptized on SundayOn Monday, President Fluckiger sent all the missionaries our weekly letter with a story. It was a story of two elders that decided to really become consecrated. They started a fast and prayerfully made a list of all of the things holding them back from giving everything to the Lord. Then, they started a 40 day fast of those things on the list. Day by day they would stop doing those things or start doing better things until by the end of the 40 days, they had changed their very natures. They had become consecrated. They had the true power of the spirit. The SECOND we read the story Sister Hirschi and I planned to do the exact same thing. The SECOND we made that decision, Satan went after us. We woke up on Tuesdayand it was freezing cold and RAINING. IN MAY. Satan had literally sent his mighty winds, his shafts in the whirlwinds. (Helaman 5:12) And as we climbed this huge hill with a storm literally beating upon us, I have never wanted to sit down and stop working so badly in my entire life. The only thing that kept me going was honestly just knowing that it was exactly this that I had signed myself up for. They told me I was going to have days like this with horrible weather and tired feet. They told me and I accepted this. And so I kept going. I wish I could have kept going with a big smile on my face but hey, I´m still getting there. If I´d be doing any other work than the Lord´s you can bet I would have stopped, but I didn´t. I felt Him though. I felt the Atonement physically in my life and He got me up that hill, through that rain and into our investigators house. He was my rock.

Wednesday was pure madness. Thursday we had a huge conference of 150 missionaries scheduled with a Seventy at our chapel and so we had TWELVE sisters sleeping at our house. We somehow got everyone into our house and had a really hilarious and adventurous night.

Thursday, we went out early to make sure everyone arriving that morning knew how to get from the stations to the chapel. Then, we went to hear from Elder Kearon. Guys...that man is a true man of God as is every single one of the General Authorities of the church, of this I have no doubt. He spoke with such love, such power, and such conviction. He was so genuine, we all had chances to speak and there were missionaries translating so even the missionaries that only speak Portuguese could participate. When we took a break for lunch, I passed by him again and he shooked my hand, thanked my for my service, and asked me if I was happy. I felt...overcome. Almost silly, like starstruck. In my amazement at the incredible spirit that he had I told him yes, yes I really was happy. I meant it too. 

I learned so many things that day I can´t even count them. What I can tell you is that towards the end of the meeting I went through a mental list of all of my own personal questions and worries. He had covered every single one. Or maybe it´s better to say that the Spirit had. 

Fast forward to Friday. Antunes had been really hard to get ahold of but we finally tracked him down at his house and finished preparing him for baptism and marking the interview. Everything was set!

Come Saturday morning, the elders showed up at the church to do the interview and Antunes was nowhere to be seen. We called him. He said he had to go by the hospital and do some stuff. (Side note here: Portuguese people are prone to go to the hospital for just about everything) We were firm with him on the phone worrying he really wasn´t taking this all seriously enough. He said that he felt like we didn´t even care about him at all, said he didn´t want to be baptized and hung up the phone.

In that moment I was devastated. We had missed the most important part! The love! In any other moment in my life before that day I would have felt really bad but in the end it was all just a misunderstanding after all and I would have just gone back to work and tried to fix it and hope for the best. But no, we had failed to show him enough that we really did care about him and just wanted what was best for him, and that was wrong. We knelt and prayed with the elders and then they left. Then I burst into tears. I coudln´t understand why it was hitting me SO hard! It was killing me! Sister Hirschi and I knelt in prayer again and I plead with Heavenly Father. To forgive us, to help us, to guide us, to help Antunes. In that moment, I still felt pain. I felt like my insides were being stripped out to make room for better things. Heavenly Father was helping me be stripped of my sins and weakness just like Alma teaches us that we must be in Alma 5. In the pain though, I felt comforted. I felt my Savior helping me and healing me. He was taking me by the hand and leading me a few steps into the Garden like Elder Holland teaches. He was taking me a few steps into The Place. 

A few weeks ago our President sent us the following quote from a new Mission Prep book soon to be used at BYU Hawaii. It said-

’Enlightened by the Spirit of truth, we will then be able to pray for the increased ability to endure truth and not be made angry by it (see 2 Ne: 28:28).  In the depth of such a prayer, we may finally be led to that lonesome place where we suddenly see ourselves naked in all soberness.  Gone are all the little lies of self-defense.  We see ourselves in our vanities and false hopes for carnal security.  We are shocked to see our many deficiencies, our lack of gratitude for the smallest things.  We are now at that sacred place that seemingly only a few have courage to enter, because this is the horrible place of unquenchable pain in fire and burning.  This is that place where true repentance is born.  This is that place where the conversion and rebirth of the soul are happening.  This is the place where the prophets were before they were called to serve.  This is the place where converts find themselves before they can have the desire to be baptized for the remission of their sins.  This is the place where sanctifications and rededications and renewal of covenants are happening.  This is the place where suddenly the atonement of Christ is understood and embraced. This is the place where we feel the full impact of the love of our Heavenly Father, which fills us with indescribable joy.  

Sister Hirschi and I, we went to that place. We got up from our prayer and I grabbed my Book of Mormon. And we read, side by side, letting it all sink in. 2 Nephi 4 came straight to my mind and so we read it. We read about Nephi´s repentance and for the first time I could really relate to him on a deeper level. He was a prophet after all and yet he still repented, he went to that place. He felt the atonement. We read in Alma 36 about the conversion of Alma the Younger. Through this misunderstanding between us and our investigator Heavenly Father allowed us to understand His gospel and the atonement to a whole new level. My eyes opened so much wider and I FELT it. I FELT the atonement like never before. It was so real, so so real. We went to that place.

After that experience, we worked. We called Antunes a few times, we went by his house, and...nothing. At 8pm, we decided to go by his house one more time, praying the whole walk there. His mom and brother let us in and we decided to talk to them for a little bit. Just as we were about to say an opening prayer, Antunes walked in! We apologized but he wasn´t even mad at all! He said it was just a misunderstanding and that everybody had a little blame. And that was it! We called the elders and they ran and got on a train, we ran to meet them, we ran back to Antunes´s house and he had his interview! Can I even begin to describe how grateful I was to our merciful Heavenly Father?

Next day. Sunday. They had asked me to give a talk a few days earlier. The only thing I felt inspired to talk about was just Jesus Christ. I read about when He testified to Filipe in John 14, when He taught the apostles about how He truly did the Father´s will in everything. I testified of Him as our Savior and Redeemer and, of course, burst into tears in the process. The Spirit was strong the whole day. 

The baptism went great! The journey up to it had been so worth it, so life changing from the smallest of misunderstandings, from just a phone call in a tense moment. Heavenly Father has been so good to us, so so GOOD to us. He LOVES us. He sent His SON for us, not to comdemn us to fire and pain, but to refine us with it. He sent His son to pave the way so that He could take us by the hand and take us through That Place. 

The Savior LIVES! I know it now more than ever! I know this was kind of a sad-ish, deep, spiritual letter but I also really hope that you felt something. It was literally probably the best week of my life. The Savior feels that much more my friend on this journey. He´s there for us, ALWAYS. Please, don´t be afraid to go to that place. It´s where real repentance is, it´s where we learning what it really means to live and to love people. 

This is the truth. This is His church and His Gospel. It is all so REAL. I love Him and I love each and every one of you. I´m so imperfect but I´m working on my list of imperfections each and every day, thinking of you all constantly, praying for you all fervently. Did I mention just how much I LOVE you all?! Words can´t describe it. Have a wonderful week and don´t forget to lean on Him. He is so literally there for you, I know we can´t see Him but He´s there! I feel Him here with me every step of this adventure. I pray that we can all be led by Him.

Com MUITO amor,

Sister Swasey

Sister Hirschi, Antunes, Irmão Quinteiro and I
Sister Hirschi, Antunes, Irmão Quinteiro and I

Monday, May 19, 2014

Deus escreve direito por linhas tortas


GUYS. THIS WEEK WAS SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO GOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh my gosh.

Where do I start?! 
I´m warning you all now, I sent a MILLION pictures so I hope you all like seeing me and random Portuguese things. It was such a fun week!

Alright, let´s just go by days. Monday- P-day. It was a pretty chill normal day, we
did email and shopping and such. We also got hamburgers which was like a taste of America so ya know, always fun. We also got some pictures developed and the guy there told us all about his whole life, family, kids, job, everything. Then he gaves us all sorts of discounts just because he thought we were nice. Fun times. THEN... that night we taught Brito, Eduardo´s friend and MARKED HIM TO BE BAPTIZED. He´s so cool!!!! So receptive and smart and just gets it. We´ll talk more about him later. 

Our District
So then, Tuesday rolled around and we had to go to Cascais to have our district meeting. The thing is, it was Elder Lindsey´s (our district leader) last one because this week we have a mission tour with Elder Kearon (a seventy) and he goes home after this transfer! So we made this cake with a tombstone that said ´RIP Elder Lindsey,´ wore all black, brought candles, and hopped on a train to Cascais. It was quite and adventure with the chocolate melting and all but we made it! The joke behind all this is, when a missionary ends his mission, everyone says that he ´dies.´ Sooo we threw a surprise funeral! Turned out pretty hilarious if you ask me.

Elder Lindsey's Funeral
Elder Lindsey's Funeral RIP

THEN... that night we had the big 40 years of the church in Portugal celebration thing! It was really cool, there were a TON of people there. Even though Oeiras is the biggest chapel in all of Portugal there still wasn´t room for everyone so we were kneeling in the back peeking through people´s heads the whole time. It was super well done though and I got to see so many missionary pals and members. They had all sorts of cultural stuff, flags and outfits songs and dances. They went through and told the whole story of how the church got to Portugal and got started here and had some video interviews of some of the first members. It was really neat!

Ward member, Eva, in Traditional Costume
More Traditional Portuguese Costumes
Tons of people in Oeiras
My Brazilian Friend, Niza
My Brazilian friend Claudianir 
Wednesday was a cool day, we did divisions with our sister training leaders Sister Call and Sister Dumas. It´s cool because Sister Call served in Sister Hirschi´s last area and Sister Dumas and I both started our missions in Caldas. That day we also taught this guy Antunes, a reference from the elders. Like the first thing he told us was that he wanted to be baptized! We told him we could make that happen. SO COOL.

Sister Trainer Leaders made us crepes!

Sister Trainer Leaders made us crepes - Yipeeeee!

Thursday...I don´t know what happened Thursday. Lots of good stuff as always I assume.

Friday...we prepped Brito for his baptism!

Saturday was one of the funniest days of my life. We went to have dinner with the Albino family and Brito. They made us burritos! Remember people, Portuguese people don´t know a thing about Mexican food other than what they have learned from past elders. They had the general idea of tortillas, meat and beans but then they just brought out all of the sauces in the world and were making them with sweet and sour sauce, barbeque sauce, and things I´d never even heard of. It was SO funny! Irmão Albino´s was the best. He had all sorts of sauces on it with chips and olives and he made it more like a quesadilla. (How do you spell that?!) You get the idea. All in all a fun night.

Albino Family made us burritos!

Irmao Albino
Irmao Albino's burrito - too funny!
My Burrito . . .

THEN.... SUNDAY!!!!!!!!!! Heavenly Father is...amazing. We were running around getting everything ready for the baptism and trying to take care of people and it was pretty hectic. When sacrament meeting rolled around, Heavenly Father just whipped out some amazing miracles and we had SIX INVESTIGATORS IN CHURCH. For Portugal, that´s like... a lot. Then, so many people stayed for the baptism after church, including 3 investigators, and the members brought a ton of food to celebrate and they were all so happy for Brito! He was so happy too he was even crying a little bit afterwards. SO MUCH HAPPINESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Sister Hirschi and I were just over the moon! All in all from the week we reached the standards of excellence that our President set, something I haven´t done since like 2 transfers ago in Matosinhos. SUCH a great feeling, especially doing our pinkwash. Heavenly Father really just provided and guided everything. he takes such good care of us.

Brito's Baptism


As to the translation for the title, in english it means, ´God writes straight with crooked lines.´ At least that´s my best attempt at a translation. People in Portugal say it a lot and it´s so true! Sometimes it feels like Heavenly Father is taking us all over the place doing crazy things, talking to so many people and then we have days or weeks like this Sunday and this past week and everything comes together. Then we look back and we see that He was really guiding us so perfectly all along, teaching us, holding our hands, and taking us to the people who need us right when the time is right. It´s amazing! I´m learning to really trust the Lord and let Him lead me. Whenever I do that, it all turns out great. 

I love you all!!! I know this was a long and crazy email but hopefully I let you see a little bit more of what my life is here on my side of the world! Enjoy the bajillion pictures :)

Abraços e beijinhos,

Sister Swasey

P.S. I forgot to tell you about my cute african friends! We went to try and visit an investigator but she wasn´t home. Her family was shelling this enormous bag of peas though so we started helping. I wanted to take all three of those little boys home with me! One kept trying to sit on my lap and it was killing me because as missionaries we´re not allowed to! Super fun though :)

So many peas!!!

Cutest kids ever!!!!!

Fun with the Book of Mormon

Fun with the Book of Mormon
"Found a Villager in Portugal"
 (Sorry Danielle - It's actually it's a Voyager)
Reunited with Sister Derrick

Love Portugal

My Beautiful Companion Sister Hirschi

Tchau Elder! Too Funny.

Monday, May 12, 2014

I'm Just Not a No-Bake Cookie


Hello world! I hope you all had a glorious Mother´s day yesterday, shout out to all of you wonderful mothers out there! I always tell people that my family are MY missionaries because seriously, where on earth would I be without all of the things that you have all taught me in my life?! Not in Portugal, that is for sure! I seriously have the best Mom, best Grandmas and best aunts EVER!!!!! (You fathers out there have to wait your turn for praise ;) Just kidding, you all are so wonderful! DO YOU EVEN KNOW?! I have to be honest, I don´t think I even really knew until they shipped me across the ocean to preach the gospel. But now, rest assured, I KNOW. You all mean so much to me!!!  I can´t even say it better than just hope you all know how wonderful it is for me to be here doing what I´m doing. I think of you all so often and I just pray that the Atonement is touching your lives like it is COMPLETELY changing mine ENTIRELY. Seriously, who even was I before the mission?! It´s funny, you think you have a testimony and you think you´re a pretty good person then Heavenly Father sends you on a mission and really shows you what it means to believe in Christ and how important it all is and your testimony EXPLODES along with your heart because you just LOVE EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING.

This week I found (okay, refound because I know I´ve read it a bajillion times before) a super sweet scripture in 2 Nephi-

2For, for this end was the law given; wherefore the law hath become dead unto us, and we are made alive in Christ because of our faithyet we keep the law because of the commandments.
26 And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children [and investigators] may know to what source they may look for are mission of their sins. 

I have never had more faith in Christ nor have I ever felt more ALIVE than I do right now! It is so wonderful! All we have to do is just make Christ the center of our lives and then we live more, we´re happier and others know where to get that same happiness! Amazing.

Okay, one last rant and then I´ll tell you all about my great week! This week Sister Hirschi and I were waiting for a bus talking about the mission and she started comparing us as missionaries to desserts (stay with me people...). We decided that before the mission, we´re just like the dough but the mission really puts you through the oven, the refiners fire and makes us into the person, or shall we say cookie, that we were really meant to be all along. So elders are really brownies, because they HAVE to go through the oven, or else they stay that strange liquidy mix. Sisters are cookies because we have to remember that there are girls that don´t need to be missionaries to be the people they need to be and they turn out to be really awesome cookies! We call those the no-bakes. As for me and Sister Hirschi, we´re just not no-bake cookies... I need to be here, I need this hot fire to turn me into the person Heavenly Father wants me to be. Without the oven, I´m just cookie dough, which is like cool and all but not really what I was supposed to be. Also, there´s always danger of raw eggs in the mix and that´s not cool. SO ANYWAY, bring on the fire.

Sometimes I think Heavenly Father takes the fire thing literally because this week was HOT. I´m loving it though and I definitely don´t miss the rain! We had a great week of work too. Recently we´ve been working with Eduardo. Funny story, we were with a member who wanted to borrow our phone to call his friend. So Sister Hirschi asks for the number and dials it but doesn´t pass the phone to the member just yet...Eduardo, the friend, answers and Sister Hirschi starts telling him how we´re missionaries and asking if he wanted to talk to us AND HE DID. Fast forward 2 weeks and Eduardo wants to get baptized! Only thing holding him back right now is that he just got out of prison recently and so he can´t get baptized until he´s off probation. Cool thing is, he felt that. Before we even knew that he couldn´t get baptized he told us that he really wanted to but that the Spirit was telling him he needed to wait until he resolved all of his stuff. He´s like our own Cape Verdian Alma the Younger though, seriously what a change of heart he has had!

In the meantime, one day Eduardo showed up at our appointment with his friend Brito. Turns out Brito is AMAZING. He came to church with us yesterday and stayed for all 3 hours and LOVED it. So don´t worry, Eduardo is still progressing in the process of waiting-he´s already a missionary! It´s really cool to see the gospel touch people´s lives and lead them to want to help others too!

This week we also had a really neat experience. We went to try and visit this one investigator of ours, not really knowing if she´d be home or not. Well, turns out we knocked on the wrong door. Whenever that happens (which is often, haha) we just take advantage of the moment and contact the person. The lady at the door was not looking happy nor was she showing really any interest. Somehow, we get talking enough and she let us in. We ease in to teaching her about the restoration and the first time she smiled since we met her was when we talked about the First Vision. After we said it, I asked her what made her start to smile. She told us that it reminder her of two boys that used to visit her and HOW SHE GOT BAPTIZED IN THE CHURCH LIKE 10 YEARS AGO. Complete 180. From that point on she was so happy and even invited us to come back and visit her! Heavenly Father is really great at leading us to the people that need him. It gets better. So we left her house to go to our investigator. We know on another door AND...wrong door again haha. But guess what! The lady that open ALSO got baptized in the church like 20 years ago and was so excited to see sisters because she´d only ever met elders. Coincidence? I THINK NOT. It was a really cool experience to see Heavenly Father lead us to not one but TWO of His inactive daughters.

So is just good here in Oeiras! (Oh-way-rash, for those of you struggling with Portuguese pronunciation ;)) The members are AMAZING and they feed us a ton which is always fun. We have one family that we eat with every week and this week they bought us root beer and Reese´s from the American store. I had no idea how much I missed those two random American items!!! In short, the members are very good to us and I love all of them already!

I´ll let you know how the big 40 years in Portugal celebration thing goes, it should be really sweet and cultural. There´s going to be Seventies there and everything! I´m stoked :)

Well guys, church is true and Christ lives. Love you all, until next week!

Com amor,

Sister Swasey

Monday, May 5, 2014

Super Powers

Dearest Family, Friends, and Fans,

LIFE IS SO GOOD. I wish that you could really just KNOW how good it is! In just 3 short weeks Oeiras is BOOOOOOOMING! Hello promised land. I feel like I´m in the spotlight of Portugal. Our zone, a zona de Oeiras, is one of the biggest and most productives zones in the whole mission. Not to mention the Oeiras stake is also one of the biggest and we´re in the Oeiras area of the Oeiras ward...let´s just say it´s an AWESOME place to be! The church is celebrating 40 years in Portugal this year and they´re doing this huge multi-stake celebrating in our chapel. It´s going to be amazing!!!

I don´t even know where to start with this I said the area is just doing amazingly! We already have so many new investigators and people progressing and we have several people that are really close to baptism! (Stay tuned!) We FINALLY figured out the whole bus pass situation so we don´t have to walk as much and so we´re going to be even more effective! I LOVE working with Sister Hirschi, seriously Heavenly Father has been SO good to me in terms of my companions! Sister Blanco helped me so much with the language and it was really neat to start my mission of with someone with a lot of experience, Sister Brundage trained me more than I can ever say that I trained her, Sister Giberson was pure injustice that we were only companions for one transfer and she´s amazing, and Sister Hirschi is just spectacular! We have been going all over our area talking to EVERYONE and every night we just crash dead tired. It is SUCH a good feeling. It´s starting to get hot and so we white blondies have to carry sunscreen around like it´s our life. Everyone loves telling us how red we are which is a nice cultural touch haha :)

Calendars & Goals
We´re slowly getting our house and lives even more in order as well. This week we put up two calendars to track all of the people and our numbers here. It looks a little obsessive but it´s been really cool. Our district leader just got done from being an executive secretary with President and so he´s taught us a lot about looking at past numbers in order to make accurate goals and such. So since then we have started tracking almost everything on our calendars and white many families we contact, how many other people we contact, how many lessons we have, how many new investigators, how many people said they´d go to church and how many actually came and how much we need to do to reach our area, district, and zone goals. Like I said, sounds a little obsessive but it´s been really cool to look at it! 

Getting our numbers up
and our house in order
The map ate me

 As for the title, I shall explain now. Guys, seriously I just feel at the peak of my mission yet I just want to keep going UP! I have so many goals to keep improving but overall I feel like I´m at such a good place in my mission! The language is going SO well (explain more about that later), I feel like I can really teach the people, we talk to so many people every day and we´re really getting some great work done! It´s amazing being a missionary, I feel like I really do have super powers! The Spirit just leads the way and helps us with everything! You feel so invincible because you know that you´re on the Lord´s errand. When I go up to talk to people I feel like there´s nothing they can say that can trip me up (not always true, but hey, Heavenly Father likes to keep me humble) and I just feel like Ammon (minus the arm cutting part). I want to just talk to everyone and tell them how good God really is and just BOAST, not about me but about HIM. He´s so good to us! He´s so good to His missionaries! He gets us through every day and leads our way and loves us SO MUCH. And lets not forget the best thing He did for us, that being that He sent His Son. This week when we were dying in the heat and I wanted to complain so badly I remembered a talk by Elder Eyring. He said something to the effect that when his body begs for rest, and when he thinks he´s finished a hard task he gives to himself this rallying cry- REMEMBER HIM. When I stop and I truly remember Him, NOTHING hurts, NOTHING bothers me, ALL I want to do is keep going!

Life is just good! Quick story about the language, this week I bore my testimony in sacrament meeting. After the meeting I had so many members come up to me freaking out about my Portuguese accent. They were all so excited about it and it really made my day! LIFE GOAL- REACHED. The gift of tongues is SO SO SO real!!! Like I said, Heavenly Father is so good to us missionaries!

But anyway, don´t forget to remember Him and I hope you all know I definitely remember you!!!!

Com muito amor e saudades,

Sister Swasey