April 13, 2015 Portugal
I just love getting your letters every week and hearing about how everyone’s doing. It’s just awesome! Don’t worry about not getting your email to me in the morning the other week. We just normally go to a printing place in the morning to print our emails so we can spend more time writing. I just wanted to make sure that it actually came through or something.
So, I forgot to tell you but my bag that I brought with me from the states, though very durable and efficient, died about a month and a half ago. To be able to work I bought one in a Chinese Store (they just sell cheap junk, but they’re so awesome) for 5£. Well, it lasted about a week and a half before the strap ripped off. I tied the shoulder strap to the top handle and I’ve been using it like that ever since. Well, yesterday the zipper broke as well and so I realized I’d have to buy a better one. We spent FOREVER at the mall today looking for a suitable one. We found some that were less-than-desirable and I was getting worried. In the second to last store of the entire mall I found one that is almost exactly the same as the one I brought with me from the states just a little smaller for a reasonable price. I got it and it’s perfect. It’s gonna last the rest of my mission. Just wait and see.
So, I’ll start with the most joyous part of our week. We had a marvelous lesson with H_ on Monday with a member. At the end of the lesson we told her we had an invite for her (once again). She was like, I know, you want me to visit your church. We were like, YA ACTUALLY! The miracle in this is that every other time we asked she always replied that she doesn’t go to just one church. It was incredible to see how the Spirit works with people and how they change.
H_ wanted to do a tour of the chapel before she came for the actual church and so at the lesson we set it up for Saturday afternoon. We got a teenager named J_ to come with us and meet H_ there. When she got there she ended up bringing her “Catholic husband” and her 10 year-old son. We showed them around the church and the husband commented that it was a lot bigger than he thought it was (It’s situated on a ground floor of an apartment building). We’d only been able to say a few words to her husband before this experience. (He was the one that told H_, “I think I want to go see this church.) Before they left, H_ said some very interesting things to us. She told us that she liked to meet with us (the Elders) because our message is in harmony with her way of thinking. Previous to this, I would never have guessed that. She’s kind of quirky and likes to learn about palm-reading and other stuff like that. She also said the reason she wanted to come to church was because of us! By that I mean, she wanted to find out what kind of church/culture raises teenagers like these two young men with white shirts and ugly ties–ones who are “not addicted to drugs, sex, alcohol,” and ultimately the world. What she said in essence was that she wanted to know more about the church full of members, particularly “jovens” (teenagers), who are in the world but not of the world. She said it so clearly I almost laughed. Truly, as the scriptures say, we are a “peculiar people.” The tour went really well, especially because of our teenage friend J_, who added to her wonder that there are other young men who also believe as we do. At the end of the tour, H_ asked us if everyone who comes to our church has to follow all of our “rules.” We replied by telling her, “No; everyone is welcome to enter our chapel whether or not they are living all of these standards.” Then she said, “No, if I am baptized, do I have to live all of these rules?” We used this opportunity to quickly introduce the Word of Wisdom, after which H_ made a huge sigh and said “Phfeww! I thought I wouldn’t be able to eat cake or something!” Hopefully that revelation never gets added to D&C 89! 🙂
I also gained a greater testimony of prayer this week because we were both praying SOOOOO hard for H_ and her husband (whom we hadn’t taught) so that they would go to church. We called up the branch president to see who would be teaching the gospel principles class to make sure it would be a good experience for them when they went, and he told us that he didn’t have anyone to teach it so we would have to. (Every time I call the branch president with a question, we always have to teach a class or give a talk, haha!) Anyway, we felt like we should teach the restoration for the class. It was a couple of chapters ahead in the manual, but close enough. At church on Sunday we were really worried about our investigators and our lesson and everything that was going on but we were praying sooo much that it would all go well. Before our class, H_ and her husband showed up and I almost cried. Our lesson, (though a little adapted to the manual) and the restoration video were way powerful and some people started crying. Sacrament meeting was fast and testimony meeting and there were more people there than I have EVER seen in the chapel except at Branch Conference. It was a really powerful meeting and it looked like H_ and her husband loved it. I sat next to him during sacrament meeting and I asked him if he’d sing. He told me definitely not, he’d just read along. Near the end of the meeting I asked him if he was gonna try and sing next time and he just laughed, haha! C_ was also there the whole time and is progressing really well and A_, another investigator showed up at the end up the meeting just like she promised! It was pretty much the best Sunday ever!
This week we were FINALLY able to teach a lesson with C_. We couldn’t enter because there wasn’t a man in the house, but it still went really well. It turns out Celeste is just eating up the Book of Mormon, using the index and dictionary in the back, and she already read all three lesson pamphlets. We were talking and she tells us she has a question for us. She points back into her house at a picture of Mary (or Fátima in Portugal) as an angel, ministering to some children, and asks us what we think of the picture (obviously a test). I told her I thought it was really pretty. She asked if she could keep it in her house. We said yes. Then she asks us why we don’t pray to Mary. She made it a little more complicated when she told us a story about a time when she was in tons of pain during or around the time of a operation and she prayed to Mary and she was instantly relieved. We simply told her it was God who answered her prayer. She still didn’t realize why it was wrong to pray to God in Mary’s name. It would take something more direct. We then cited the time when Mary ran out of wine at the party and she went to Jesus for a miracle, she didn’t perform the miracle herself. Christ is our advocate with the Father. We then testified to her that we knew that if Mary were here on the earth she would teach others to worship Jesus Christ and pray to the Father in his name, instead of worshiping herself. Finally, she understood. I ended by sharing my experience about you, my own mother, of how you would always teach me to worship my Savior, not you, nor any other person. By the end of our little lesson in the doorway she understood very clearly, because of the Spirit, why we pray, to whom we pray, and through what name we can be saved. It was a real testimony builder and a touching situation. I’m so glad we followed the spirit.
I love you all! Especially you, Mom and Dad!
Elder Cory Zwahlen
Missão Portugal Lisboa