Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Pantufo's Big Adventure

Cherished ones,

Everybody says that "the days are like weeks and the weeks are like days" on missions, and other cute expressions like that.  But they're wrong.  The days are like weeks and the weeks are like centuries and the months are like eons. 

Not in a bad way!  Like, I don't say that to mean that I'm dying out here.  I'm happier than I've ever been in my life and have the most satisfying, meaningful life ever.  I love it!

But there is some phenomenon of expanded time.  I think it's because we are focused on ONE PURPOSE all day every day and it just feels like SO MANY really important things happen every day, every week.

This week was incredible.  And bizarre.  This week, we:

Slogged through the biggest downpour of my mission so far. On Christmas Eve.  NO ONE was in the streets.  We cheerily walked the 45 minutes to Bacelo to deliver some presents to some less active members (it really was fun).  By the time we got there we were so wet that I could wring out my skirt like a soaked wash rag.  Ha!  We went home to change after that but our second pair of clothes got just as wet.  :)

Experienced Christmas as a missionary for the first (and last) time.  Our Christmas was good!  Lots of chocolate, a lunch at Nazaré's, talked to my favorite people in the whole universe, visited a bunch of people who were going to be alone that day.  It was a good day. 

Gave up on marking Manuel for baptism last weekend.  We had felt all month like the 29th would be a good day for him, that he was ready and had true desire, but he just kept resisting and resisting, so we decided to drop the issue.

Marked Manuel for baptism last weekend.  In our lesson on Friday night, we read Enos and talked about prayer. Sister Gutz mentioned goals, and said, in passing, "you can have all sorts of goals -- reading the book of mormon daily, praying more, we know you have a goal of baptism, ...."  Then Manuel was like, "Yeah, can I still be baptized on the 29th?"


The first words out my mouth were, "Aiaiai, Manuel!"  We had told him numerous times that to plan a baptism in Évora we needed at LEAST a week's notice.  The little fart! But we looked at each other and said, "Yes, Manuel, we'll make it happen.  Your baptismal interview has to happen tomorrow.  Does 5 work for you?  Okay, we'll come pick you up at 4:30, okay?  Okay.  4:30.  See you tomorrow."

Woo!  This is how we roll in Evora, apparently.  Mark people the same week they get baptized.

Planned and organized a baptism in Èvora is ONE DAY.  Never a dull moment here.

Thoroughly annoyed all of Manuel's roommates.  So Saturday arrives and the Elders of Beja, bless them, had agreed to drop everything they had planned to take a bus to Evora and interview Manuel for baptism. We went to his house to get him at 4:30, as planned, and ... he's not home. WHAT!??  Se we're stressing ALL THE WAY out, demanding of all his buddies where he is/when he left/who he could be with/when he might come back/where he normally goes when he leaves/ARE YOU SURE HE'S NOT IN THERE!??  The Elders have to catch their train home at 7:02.  We ran around the city looking for him, praying, and eventually at about 5:30 decided just to head back to the church.  We run into him on our way. PHEW!!  He is such a stressful creature. 

"Where were you!?"

"Having lunch with some friends."

"WHAT!?  Manuel, Four thirty does NOT mean Five thirty." ...

It's all good, he passed his interview with flying colors.  He really gets this stuff, it's just little details like getting up on time and getting places on time that he struggles with.  Will you pray for him?  I see a lot of potential in Manuel.  But his roommates are kind of put out with us.  Will you pray for us to know how to gracefully improve that?

Rencountered Ulisses!  Did I tell you about Ulisses?  He's way cool and we've bumped into him in miraculous ways 3 times now.  Manuel told us he wanted to invite his friends (a couple with a daughter) to his baptism.  Right on!  So he brings us to these friends´house.  It's ULISSES!  Awesome.  Ulisses came to the baptism and was a real prince.  I have huper high hopes for him.  He just seems really light-filled.  Will you start praying for him and his wife/girlfriend Ana?  We want to start teaching him. 

Witnessed Manuel's baptism. In Evora with the only 3 active priesthood holders and the Branch President out of town, planned in one day, and it all went rather smoothly!  Blessings.  The members are real champs.  They really are.

Made friends (accidentally) with a cute white dog who we named Pantufo and who followed us around Evora for 3 hours last night.  Eventually we walked him back to where we'd encountered him and returned him.  His owner became a new investigator!  How's that for a finding activity?  It was actually really fun to have him along all evening.  We kept trying to lose him but man was he faithful.  I've bonded so much more with animals on my mission than ever before.  Random!

And more. I can't even write about some of the other cool things that happened this week.  I swear, you guys, at the end of every day I'm like, wait, it's STILL THURSDAY!?, or whatever day it is. Just SO MUCH HAPPENS.

I realized last night that right now I am exactly half way through my mission. All things considered, that feels about right. No longer a baby missionary, but still with a lot more hopes and dreams and lessons to learn in front of me. 

Most of all I am just grateful. So, so grateful for the opportunity to do this.  I see my weaknesses and failings so much as a missionary, but I also see how huge and infinite and transformative is the power of Christ's grace.  I am changed, permanently, for having chosen to serve a mission.  It's like my life was heading down one train track, not a bad one, but my mission jolted me, bounced me, re-routed me onto an infinitely better one.  For that I am humbly grateful.

I love you so much!  Big hugs,


Okay.  Explanation.  The three white guys in this photo are our three priesthood holders in Évora.  The far right is Amilcar Calado, the first counselor in the branch.  He has a peg leg.  In the font with Manuel is Americo, Nazaré's husband.  Someday I will try to impersonate him for you.  But I will not succeed.  Far left is Irmão Rocha, the bearded legend.  They are..... the priesthood of Èvora.

And the smiling black guy in the font is Manuel!  More to follow.

Manuel and Ulisses

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