Thursday, September 29, 2011

How long have I been here?

Dear Family,
I was going to write the week number of my transfer, but I don't remember how long I have been here? is it week four or five? Anyways, however long it has been, it hasn't been long enough! I don't want to leave:) Whenever my visa comes, it will be an exciting day, but I will miss Montana dearly. My mission president, the ward I am serving in, and my companion have all been just so wonderful. My expectations for the rest of my mission are sky high, because this is all GREAT.

This last week has been Indian Summer to be sure! How hot has it been at home? Last Tuesday, in the morning on the way to a Zone Training meeting in Bozeman (an hour and a half drive) it was 25 degrees. I couldn't believe it. And then on Wednesday afternoon, it was 87 degrees. The rest of the week, it was almost 90 degrees everyday. Today it is something like 70 outside, so almost sweater weather. For the end of September, the weather has been just perfect for someone who has packed for Brazil.
I can wear lightweight cotton clothes with the best of 'em.

On Saturday, our ward mission leader and his wife went to the Rexburg temple and were sealed. Brother Mitchell, I don't know if you remember from a previous email, was baptized a year ago. His wife was baptized about three years ago and had already been through the temple. Anyways, he got his endowments out and then he and his wife were sealed in front of about a dozen returned missionaries and many ward friends. Everyone there did one of their family names for them. I was so sad that we couldn't go with them, but Sister Van and I did get to see them that evening when they came home and they were just GLOWING. It was one of the most touching things I have seen! Brother and Sister Mitchell are the most wonderful people and they are so supportive of missionary work. Every week, they host a dinner for our investigators and some less active members. Their love for people is incredible, I want to be them when I grow up.

Did I already tell you about Brother Gordon Coop in the ward? He has the coolest reactivation story. I am going to retell it. He had a very difficult divorce, and he doesn't have very much to do with his children. After losing his home and I am assuming his job, he moved up to Montana to stay in his sister's home while she works out of state. One evening he went into a crawl space to fix something and found a large plastic bin full of scrapbooks. The top one was a mission scrapbook for one of his other sisters who has passed away. She served a mission in Brazil in the 1960's (one reason I love this story, naturally). Shortly after he found this memory of his sister, the Sister Missionaries of townsend knocked on his door, and he let them in to honor his sister's memory. Since then, he has been coming back to church and he is a very loving, kind man. This is so touching! We never know how our missionary service will bless our family, or other future missionaries.

Montana is fun, I am certainly not in Sandy anymore. The other day, a sweet older woman took her dentures out after dinner and began to suck on them. Later I thought to myself, "I have officially been broken into Montana". The things you see as a missionary. We went to visit a woman one evening and her husband answered the door wearing swim trunks and sunglasses. He didn't have a swimmer's build. Another day this week, I got to dig a three foot wide, one foot deep hole for a member of our ward who is renovating their basement. They grow rocks in their garden about as well as the Becksteads do!

Zone Training was definitely a highlight from last week. We met for a few hours and talked about the Book of Mormon, each taking turn to bear testimony of what we are learning from our reading right now. There were about thirty missionaries there, so it took a while. I love being around other missionaries, I told President Gardner this and he smiled and said "when they are acting like missionaries... yes!" I must be lucky, I have only seen them be on their best behavior. I just love my mission president, I can't say enough good things about him.

I best be off, but as always, I love you all! Enjoy general conference.
Sister Smith

ps - the relief society talk about forget me nots was amazing, wasn't it?

Monday, September 19, 2011

sixty degrees and partly cloudy

Dear Family,
Hello from Townsend:) I am doing just great, or rather, better than most other BYU fans are doing today. OUCH. I am kind of thankful that I didn't have to be there to watch that one. I hope that you can heal for next week. I have been teaching a lot about general conference, the cool thing being that everyone here has a satellite dish and BYU TV! Everyone can watch from the comfort of their lazy boy that they don't leave when we come to see them. So anyways, I have been sharing Jacob 2:8, talking about those who listen to the prophet to heal the wounded soul. I know that this is so true in my life, as general conference, and the words of President Monson ANYTIME heal my wounded soul. I have a lot of weaknesses as a missionary, and sometimes it is hard to not to be too homesick, but I know that as I try I will be sustained. I am very excited to hear from the bretheren this upcoming session! We get to watch with a member family, and we even get to drive up to Helena for the relief society session this Saturday. I am glad that I am still in the US to watch at a regular time, with regular hours and regular English. I am just too blessed. Everyday, I keep thinking "are You SURE that I deserve this?!" (I really don't)

This week we taught the couple again who don't like eternal families. I told them that I am from a family of three and she questioned whether or not my parents were devout latter day saints. three isn't enough for most of us apparently. I told her that we don't have children to boost membership numbers, but to raise good people. I don't think she believed me.

We met with a woman who we tracted into a few weeks ago. She is already a member, but doesn't want visits or anything because her husband is antagonistic. It was heart wrenching. As missionaries we get to help many people, but when you can't even help for risk of troubling a marriage, it is just awful. Religion never killed anybody. (aside from persecution and a myriad of other things, but who is counting?) Religion in Townsend Montana will not hurt you. That I am pretty sure of.

So I can't remember if I recounted a story about peaches yet, but some members of the ward drove 8 hours down to Brigham City, UT to buy peaches for people. They got over three thousand dollars worth of fruit. I had no idea that Utah peaches were so heavenly! Maybe there is a difference between Orem peaches that Trevor ran over and Brigham City peaches? I don't know, but I did have one yesterday from the triumphant return and it was good. I hugged Sister Mitchell because she had essence of home all over her! I do miss Utah.

Mother, I got my flannel pillowcase, it was my favorite thing you sent. Thank you! Everyone in this town sews and likes to craft, you and Auntie Rae really need to bring up your watches you would make a killing. your flannel would be the envy of every quilter in town. I also loved the letters from the primary, they are so sweet. I am having a good time, someone asked me that in their letter. Yes, missionary work is a hoot! one more highlight: my costco card. We are going into Helena today so I get to go! I have missed it so. Thank you mother for the costco card.

I am sorry that this letter is so very sporadic, I do not have very many anecdotes to share, but do know that the work is going along just fine. We taught 25 lessons last week, I have no idea if this is average or whatnot, but the mission standard of excellence is 20 lessons per week, so I feel optimistic. We taught mostly less active members of the ward, but they are so sweet and accepting of us, I just can't help but wonder why they won't let the ward in like that. I have learned a lot about how much I slacked off before my mission on this front. I hope to be much better at loving, fellowshipping, and reminding people how much they are needed when I get home. I have a lot to work on!

I must draw to a close, but know that I love you all very very much. I love MY eternal family and it is a privilege to share my testimony with others to help draw their families closer together. I know that a family centered on Christ is a family that will find lasting joy, I am so thankful to have that at home. So thank you for your examples and inspiration to me!
Lots of Love,
Sister Smith

Friday, September 9, 2011

Townsend, MT

Dear Family,

I am here, I love it, and my goodness is it difficult! Walking around and telling people that you are a missionary is harder than it looks. Literally one woman looked at us and said "I know what you do..." and that was about the gist of our conversation. There is rejection, that is to be sure. The hard part isn't that someone isn't going to like me, the hard part is that I KNOW the message of the restored gospel is EXACTLY what they need! It is sad to see someone reject the only lasting happiness that they are going to ever find. Hmph. I love them anyways. Most people are really nice about beating around the bush that they don't like us, but no matter how we are rejected, I love them anyways.
Enough about rejection! I am sorry I started with that! I actually LOVE Montana. The ward is nice, the small branch we serve in is very kind, and the people we go teach are warm. I have several people to introduce you to:
1) Brother Wayne Mitchell - He is our ward mission leader. He is 78 years old, was baptized a year ago, and will be sealed to his wife in the Rexburg Temple next week. He reminds me of Tim Burke. I think that is the kindest thing I could say about anyone. Every week, he and his wife (who was baptized 3 years ago) have dinner for the missionaries and some of the less actives in the ward. His love works miracles for people. Brother Mitchell is a hoot too! He teases all of the time. It took three years to get him baptized and the first time I met him he told me he had a fridge full of missionaries. (Just pictures on the front, but I was thinking..."welcome to Montana Sister Smith") I love the Mitchells, he always says that he wants his home to be warm and welcoming to every missionary that is far from home. Mother, I will have to get their address and you will have to send him a Christmas card.

2) Phyllis Lee - She is 83, was baptized about 10 years ago. We went and visited her yesterday, she just got home from the hospital and is in great spirits. She only wears one earring because she got in a bar fight once when a woman was hitting on Sister Lee's husband. She lost part of her ear lobe. As a badge of honor, she only wears one earring everyday, like the long dangling kind. On her side table by her chair, she has a picture of her husband ( he passed away quite a while ago) wearing pink fuzzy pajamas while camping. The story goes like this: She was working, he was in charge of packing for the trip. He didn't pack for himself, and so he got to wear her pajamas for a day. She said any strife of keeping the picture was worth it. I for one, agree. She is spunky woman with an amazing testimony. Her seven children, and numerous grandchildren don't understand why she is a Mormon, but her belief is an example even to me!

3) The Williams family. part of our area is White Sulpher Springs, which is 45 minutes west of Townsend. We go there everyother weekend to tract and to go to the branch on Sunday. We stay with the Williams family. Brother Williams got his mission call to Brazil, but got sick while in the MTC. Fifteen years later, and I am determined to have a conversation in Portuguese! They have three little girls who are the cutest things. They have an almost six year old who literally looks like she is three, she is Tiny! Sister Williams reminds me of Laura Hughes in a way, and she let me read a cookbook. I loved her instantly.

4) Sister Van Leishout. My trainer. She is patient with me and lets me study Portuguese all I want. I love her to bits! She is from Olympia, WA and has about three months left on her mission. I am her third greenie, bless her soul. She has a degree in Music from Washington State, and just turned 28? Anyways I like her a lot. she has a great sense of humor, and she has a tremendous love for the people of Townsend. She has been here almost 5 months and knows everybody! she is an inspiration.

The town is small, it is a 40 minute drive to get to Wal mart on Pday. But yes we have a truck. which is great because not many roads are paved:)

I have compiled a small list of ways to know you are in Montana:

- You know you are in Montana if a mother won't let her son watch Bambi because hunting season starts next week.
- People tell you to eat bears that have been eating berries not fish.
- You offer someone zucchini, and they decline because they don't want to fill their freezer too full in case their husband shoots an elk on his hunting trip.
- Tracting in White Sulpher is difficult because there is a demolition derby, a parade and a rodeo for Labor Day weekend.
- And finally, it is September 5th and there is ice on your truck when you try to wash it on P-Day.

I love it here! I can't wait to tell you more.
For now, just know that while yes, Missionary work is hard, it is the greatest privilege I have ever had to tell people about their Savior. It is the best thing I have ever done to be loving and kind to someone and reflect well on the church that I represent.

Ate mais,
Sister Smith ( not seester smeech... yet!)