Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas Week

Dear family/friends,

It's hard to believe that I spoke with some of you just a few days ago. For those of you who I didn't talk to I'll just fill you in a bit. 

Because it was Christmas week and not a lot of people wanted to be visited, we visited EVERYONE, haha! We took bags comprised of popcorn, approximately 25 melty chocolate covered pretzels and mini marshmallows. We pawned them off on members, people in the streets, and even on one humble and unsuspecting southern dragon-footed gentleman. (That is to say, that literally his toe nails were long and green as we have always dreamed a dragon's talons would be). He was so full of Christmas spirit and love that instead of the usual Confederate rankings, he insisted on a Christmas hug. I being a wise sister missionary (and for sanitary reasons) kept my distance, but poor my dear little companion was not so lucky, although she refused his hug he grabbed her hand and gave it a big grubby kiss! 

More kisses followed that night, at the quaint home of Hermana Lohrmann. We ate empenadas, flan, and apple strudel with a divorced sister and her mom. It was simple and sweet. We didn't want to leave them alone, so we played "No comas a Pedro" (aka Don't eat Pete) and sang Christmas hymns together. Sorry, Family. Best Christmas Eve dinner ever. 

When we got home, a Christmas miracle was waiting for us - Pizza! We had a HUGE box full of freshly made and frozen and massive pizzas from The Pie in SLC! Thank you, to Hermana Paulsen's brother. We will now return home as large up recognizable blobs. :)

Christmas Day we ate lunch with a crowd of Brazilians. When we arrived, samba music was filling the air. One of them, a handsome and talented banjo player, played for us poolside while we waited for other people to show up. We conversed, tried our best to learn the common lingo, and ate Brazilian BBQ with cheesy garlic mashed potatoes. For dessert: cinnamon sugar papaya. Have I mention that Brazilians make the best food?

After that we rushed over to Margaritas and Sergio's to share a Christmas message. When we got there we shared some Hillshire Farms cheese and sausage with bread and painted our nails with Margarita. After that we got to call home! It was so great. I loved talking to you all. 

We ended the night by going to President Gazziro's house and sharing the video He is the Gift with some non-member friends of theirs from Argentina. They were so sweet and gave us two boxes of chocolate, yup I'm still not eating chocolate so with the extra box of chocolates we snuck back over to Margaritas and Sergio's gave them the chocolate and heart attacked their house mwahahaha.

We went on our first exchanges as STLs (this is the sixth time for me but the first time for Hermana P) to Venice ITALY! It was a long flight but writing this email in a gondola is definitely worth it! I wish. We actually just went to Venice, Florida. Hermana P went with Sister Skeem to their area to do some family history missionary work while Sister Johnson and I remained in Sarasota. We had a blast and taught a ton of people. 

One experience that will always stick with me is going over to one of our members homes, asking her for referrals and then watching her pound on her neighbors garage door to introduce him to us. It was great! She said, "This is the Lords work, so I'm going to knock hard!" I will forevermore "knock hard" and try harder because of that woman. 

The District
This is just a side note but Sarasota has been ablaze with Amish! Our new goal: convert an Amish person! 

We've tried lots of new approaches on missionary work this past week. We did caroling with members (so much fun), just asking for referrals from every breathing creature, and going to yard sales. 

Our week was full of laughs. Mainly due to the fact that I was a little deaf, haha! The other day instead of hearing the Spanish equivalent of, "All of you are together" I heard, "All of you are a cult." I ended up asking our investigator if she really thought we were a cult. Hahahaha! Also Hermana Paulsen wanted to know why the phrase, "He is hot" doesn't translate and our investigators spent 20 minutes trying to figure it out. 

For Christmas we went to everyone's home and made ornaments with them and asked them what they were going to give Jesus this year. 

There you have it, our goofy Christmas week. We had so much fun and really enjoyed the spirit of Christmas. I hope that you all enjoyed it too and will continue to celebrate the Lord in your daily lives. He makes every minute of being on the earth so much easier. May you all have a great new year! 

Con mucho amor y cariños, 

Hermana Mathis 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Two Baptisms and a Move

Queridos amigos e familiares,

Merry Christmas!
I'm so excited to speak with you all on Christmas Day! Well at least my familia that is, to the rest of you I hope you have a great Christmas full of lots of good memories. I will be calling home at 4
o'clock MST.

This past week has been super busy. We haven't had much time to do any finding, so sorry for the lack of cool finding stories.

Big things that happened this week:

Portuguese lessons! We had lots. We have a family in our branch who is on fire as far as missionary work goes. Yesterday they gave us 8 Book of Mormons to give out to their Portuguese speaking friends with all their addresses! We contacted a few yesterday and we ended up having good lessons with them. One of the families we met even invited us over for Christmas Eve dinner with all their friends! 

We're gradually starting to pick up more words. Hopefully I can learn it before I go home! It's been really fun, I feel like I'm a new missionary learning the language again. We have an RM from the singles branch who had been helping us out, it's like being in a trio, it's great!

We moved apartments. Yes, we are now the newest residents at Huntington Place. Our WML and his daughters (our BFFs) helped us move. It took a while but we're finally in! We're super happy in our new place. Cleaning the old apartment took a while but walls that I never thought would be clean of scuffs again are now a brilliant white.

One of our members died of a heart attack! Tuesday night after getting in we called our WML to do nightly follow up and he told us the tragic news that one of the less-actives we had been visiting had died. First thing the next day we went over to provide support to the husband and daughter. The funeral was yesterday. It was very beautiful. 

Being a missionary has changed my view on death so much. I've always known that this life is not the end, but having learned what I have on the mission it was easier to feel that Patricia really wasn't gone, just progressing on to a new life. Her presence was very strong during the whole service.

Due to the death, one of our baptisms for Saturday got pushed back to this week. However we did have two baptisms Saturday! Allan Bizzaro and Emily Chuc. They are both really happy to be baptized. It was fun to have so much family around to celebrate.

We learned that we are the sister training leaders for this transfer so you can expect lots of exchange stories to come, it should be great! It's Sister Paulsen's first time being a leader.

For Christmas we will be giving out gifts and visiting with everyone we know. Lots of people here are eager to have the missionaries over for the holidays. I love this branch so much, it will be a lot of fun!

Hermana Mathis

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Parties and Walks on the Beach

Queridos amigos y familia,

We had our mission Christmas party. It was basically a flop and kind of good. We went to Bradenton Beach (first mistake. Everyone knew it should have been siesta). It was crazy windy and super cold. We tried for beach volleyball. That didn't work. It just resulted in us running in our ugly sweaters in what felt like the Sahara Desert with sand in our eyes. But, you know. 

Hermana Newbill (who's going home this transfer) gave us homemade pumpkin cheesecake. That was probably the best part of the day besides buying matching (go comp unity!) cat onesie pajamas. Yup. We went to Walmart on our way home from the party and bought matching onesies and a can of Christmas popcorn. When we got to our apartment we had a movie party and watched Jonny Lingo (the one movie on our iPads that isn't the restoration or the testaments). Basically, the greatest thing ever.

The rest of the week was chill. On Thursday we painted a member's living room with Oscar (our recent convert). We listened to Spanish Christmas music for the first time (huzzah!) It was fun! 

Friday we had another Portuguese family home evening. They made us stuffed mashed potatoes. Yes, it's as good as it sounds. It was a mound of creamy mashed potatoes the size of the plate STUFFED with cheese and pork. We watched the same classy 70s seminary video about agency and had a great time! We want to learn Portuguese so bad! 

Saturday... Was spiritually exhausting and one of the best days. It started off with a tender mercy. We found a present from God in the most unexpected places: the library. Haha, we saw a basket of lame Christmas CDs you could check out and in the mix was... The David Archuleta cd with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir!! We love it and listen to the one song in Spanish over and over and over and over again. (Los pastores a Belén!)

Also we received our transfer emails. I'm staying with Sister Paulsen in Sarsota, yay! 

We had a really hard day that day. We went and saw Danny (one week before his baptism!) and his parents said they didn't think he was ready to be baptized. We had a solid lesson with him anyway and asked him to pray for a confirmation of his date (December 20th) so he did with us. The spirit was overpowering and dispelled all the darkness that was in the room before. He said after his whole body just became warm and knew he wanted to be baptized. It was cool to be part of that experience with him. 

Then, we crashed the Sarasota ward party and got tons of referrals for Spanish work. After that legit party (we were just happy because they had salads with lettuce in them!) we went to the relief society activity for our branch. It ended up being a huge party too! They had a white elephant and we got nail polish, shampoo and conditioner, and a mug with hot chocolate mix.

Sunday was good. It was hot! We were sweating which makes us feel a little weird to go around showing a Christmas video. I'm pretty sure it's still summer. 

Right now, we are driving around with the windows down, breeze going through our hair, trying to decide if we should buy us a little baby Christmas tree. We just went out to siesta beach to get Christmas gifts and we walked along the white sand. Haha, I love Florida. Also, we have listened to Los Pastores a Belén three times so far. :)

Con Amor,

Hermana Mathis

Monday, December 8, 2014

Branch Christmas Party

Well it's that time again... P-DAY!!

Dear Family and Friends,

You know you're in Florida when you find a bike like this!
Sarasota has been all a buzz lately with the Christmas season. Given that it is a touristy city many people have flown in to have a tropical Christmas adventure. The weather does not depict winter in the slightest! Palm trees sway in the light breeze and the ocean beats constantly on the sandy beaches where snow birds sit on lawn chairs in their swimsuits under their umbrellas. Meanwhile Christmas music fills the downtown, boats are decorated with lights and good cheer is spread abroad. What a great time and place to be on a mission!

"So what's the latest in missionary work?" you might ask. Well, we've been busily trying to prepare our 5 date-sets for baptism and convert their families in the process ;) 

Danny, Mayra's brother, is getting baptized on the 20th. So is Allan (the son of one of our recent converts), and Emily (9 year old daughter of a less active). They are all super solid too! Needless to say we can't wait for the 20th. Allan and Danny were talking about their baptisms yesterday during church, it was awesome! 

We're also teaching Danny's mother Victoria, his sister Itzel and her husband. They are all super close to baptism as well. We had a really spiritual lesson with Victoria and she told us that she knows she wants to be baptized but she just doesn't know when. Please pray for her! 

We also had the best lesson with Allan the other day!!! We asked him to pray about his date for the 20th and he did and then afterwards he exclaimed, "Wow! I felt like God was right in front of me telling me 'yes!'" I about died and went to heaven when he said that! 

Emily's uncle is flying in from Belize this week and will be the one to baptize her. All things seem to be falling ever so nicely into place.

On Saturday we had the branch Christmas party. It was so much fun! The youth did the nativity and all the children acted as Shepherds while their teachers played the angels telling them of Christ's birth. One of our investigators' babies played Jesus and another investigator was one of the wise men. The skit was really impressive! 

Branch Christmas Party
Afterwards we ate and chatted with all the members and the friends they had brought. There was SO MUCH MEAT!!! More than anyone should ever eat in their life. There was only one salad (don't worry it was a potato salad we're not THAT healthy) on the table among the largest compilation of meat known to the southeastern united states! Regardless it was delicious.  

Unlike last year I didn't get the chance to dance but even better I ended up teaching about the Book of Mormon to a Portuguese friend that one of the members brought! I was just conversing with him when our member came up and gave him the Book of Mormon. I was like, "sweet!" I had him open it and we started reading. Haha we had like 5 members around us all of which were ready to chip in, it was great!

Me and our ward mission leader and his wife
Well sadly that's all I have time to write about. 
I hope everyone is doing fantastic! 
Con Amor,
Hermana Mathis

Solanie, "Sister's what day was Christ born on."
Emily, "Mom why don't you just ask Google?"

Hermana Martin and I, I love her so much!!!

The primary and youth put on the Nativity

Us and our branch president Gazziro

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Lots of Stories

Okay. I have lots of stories so I'm just going to go for it.

1. Haha, biggest facepalm moment of our lives (x2)

We found this guy named Kevin who is really chill and smokes like a chimney. We taught him part of the restoration when we found him and he was interested. Two days later we texted him to set up a time to see him. He said he'd been praying when he asked him and we were excited to teach him more. We went to his apartment that night and he was smoking outside. We walked up and just started the lesson. It got cut off by his girlfriend so we gave him the Restoration pamphlet to read and set up a time to come back.

We texted him later to see if he'd read the pamphlet.  Haha, Kevin called us and said, "I don't know who you think I am, but I am a member. You guys said you were going to stop by??"

Oops. Totally texted the wrong Kevin. That whole time. Our investigator Kevin had no clue we were coming and we never followed up with him about his prayers.

So, a day or two later, we knew we were going to be in Kevin's area and we texted him to see if he read. He said, "yeah! I want more. I have some questions about Joseph Smith and some scriptures and stuff." We thought, "huh. Sweet."

So the next morning I go to study the scriptures he said he had questions on and I looked at the text message and was like wait... We had texted the wrong Kevin again!! The member was just messing with us. Ay mi madre!

It's okay. The real Kevin just texted us while I finished typing this story. He'll be fine.

Lesson learned: put contacts in your phone more specifically. Also, learn from your mistakes. :)

2. Ooh... The halfway house fight.

Don't worry, it's not for real. Basically, we keep finding potentials that live in half way houses. They are way cool guys who are super respectful and want to change their lives. We love teaching them, but because they're YSA age our ZL's keep telling us to hand them off to the other YSA branch elders. And you know, because they live in a halfway house. It's a struggle for us though because we feel like we go finding just to feed the elders the people we find. :(

3. The epic confirmation of Eduardo

Yes, Eduardo was baptized two weeks ago. I didn't mention what happened the Sunday after his baptism though. Our stake high council men straight armed us and told our branch president (during sacrament meeting so we had no way to correct him) that Eduardo had to wait a week before being confirmed according to the handbook So, he wasn't confirmed and we had some words with Mr. High Councilman. The following Sunday was stake conference, so he still couldn't be confirmed. Luckily, President Cusick came for conference and we talked to him about what happened.

He told us Eduardo couldn't wait anymore! He told us to make plans to confirm him ASAP! So Eduardo was confirmed on Tuesday and it was actually a way cool experience for everyone. We did it on activity night so people came to support him at the church and Hermano Bizarro got to do his first confirmation! Yay. He's now a member!! The day after his confirmation we used him as a member in a lesson with his neighbor. Best thing ever. I love watching people change and progress!

We made banana cream pie from scratch!
4. Thanksgiving

It didn't even feel like a holiday, but President gave Thursday to us as a p-day (so today is a normal missionary day + time to write home). We went to dinner at the Bizarro house and the food was incredible! Margarita is a boss in the kitchen. I was surprised by how normal everything was as compared to last year. No mashed potatoes, but still the best dinner ever.

Thanksgiving Dinner at the Bizzaros
After we ate, Hermana Paulsen and I decided to take advantage of our first ever p-day night (because pday usually ends at 6) and bike out to the beach. We went to Lido, but just missed the sun set. We looked at stars and listened to the waves. It was unforgettable. Don't worry. We were obedient and didn't go near the water. Haha, it was chilly anyway.

Sneak Away to the Beach
5. True conversion

I wanted to end with a miracle. We taught one of my favorite investigators last night. His name is Eladio and he is 86. We taught him the word of wisdom and we were kinda scared because we knew he wasn't living it. We explained it boldly and simply and extended the commitment. In my mind I was asking, "What's going to happen?! Are we going to have to drop this sweet man because he'll refuse to give up the coffee he's been drinking for the last 53527 days of his life?"

I held my breath. Then he said, "Okay. All I have to do is say I won't drink coffee anymore." Done. We know God has prepared him. He has been living with church members for the last ten years and was never willing to let it go. Now, he's ready. Never give up on the people in your life!

Con Amor,
Hermana Mathis