I have a lot to cover; so I’ll start from the beginning.
(Wednesday) We left the MTC at 3:30 in the morning; and we took the train to the airport. On our way, there was this awesome guy who works for the Liahona. He talked to our group about miracles he’s seen from other missionaries. He also talked about how he was one of the people who helped write Preach My Gospel. He told us how the apostles and the presidency of the church were heavily involved in this process. He shared his testimony with us and how it was a divinely inspired book.
I got to call my family at the SLC airport and then we left for New York. We got to New York and we had a little bit of time to get something to eat and call our families again. While we were there, Sister Steagall, Sister Miller and I met these women in the bathroom who were from the Dominican Republic. It was really cool because they only spoke Spanish; and we only knew a little bit of Portuguese; but we were able to communicate a little. They noticed we were missionaries and asked if we were Christian. We told them yes, and after, she shared a video of one of her favorite Christian Latin singers and we showed her a Mormon Message in Spanish. We didn’t have anything to give them; so we went back and got one of our pass along cards to give them. We told them that they can ask for a BOM (Book of Mormon) in Spanish. That was a really cool experience for me; because it was my first real missionary experience on my mission; and I wasn’t even in Portugal.
We eventually got on our next flight, to Madrid. I sat next to this woman who was a member from Utah. She was going on a business trip to Madrid. She told me she had been reactivated a few years ago. She was really cool and I was so glad I got to sit next to her.
When we flew into Madrid, it wasn’t what I was expecting. Madrid isn’t really all that big. But I can tell it is beautiful. The airport was neat but it wasn’t that busy when we came in. Sister Dixon and I looked around at all the shops. They had a lot of cool jewelry there.
Our flight to Lisbon was on a fairly small plane. Some other Elders and I got assigned to first class for some reason. The only thing different about it was they served food and drinks. We arrived in Lisbon and quickly got our bags; to meet the Elders who came to pick us up. All the Sisters drove with Sister Fluckiger. It was really cool to see a little bit of Lisbon. It’s a very beautiful city. We all met at a chapel near the mission home. The AP’s spoke to us, then we each had an interview with the President. We met our companions too. My companion is Sister Johnson! She is awesome. She’s from Idaho Falls and she went to school at BYU-Hawaii. After the meeting, we were all sent off to our different areas. Sister Johnson and I are assigned to Carregado.
We had to wait at the chapel for a while because they needed to drive us to the train station; and the first group they took had to go further. We got to the train station, and headed off to Carregado. It was late, so Sister Johnson had to call members in our ward to pick us up from the train station and take us home. We have some really awesome members! One of our members, Domingos, had recently been reactivated and his Dad was baptized last week. He came with his girlfriend, Antonia, and took us home. We got to our apartment and I went straight to bed.
The next morning, I unpacked a little and we got to work. I met the Branch President, President Miranda. He is really, really amazing. Their family takes up about half of our branch. He has been the branch president for the last 15 years! Carregado has not been the most fruitful area, but we are probably one of the most productive areas in our zone. Santarém is our zone; and this Sunday we had a stake conference there. All the members drove there on a bus together. That was the first time I had met a lot of them. Friday and Saturday we met a lot of investigators and less actives. Saturday I got to try food from the locals.
Most of the people here are immigrants. I’ve only met a handful of Portuguese people. There are a lot of people from Cabo Verde, Brazil, and Guinea-Bissau. We eat a lot of Chicken, rice, and fish. Africans love to use a spice called piri piri and I actually really like it. It’s probably slightly milder than a jalepeno; but the flavor is really good! I almost forgot! Here in Portugal, there is a distinctive smell. It’s everywhere too. It’s not bad, but it’s not really good either. I think it’s because of something in their soaps. So when I come home, I will definitely smell like Portugal.
The people here are very nice. Although they don’t have a lot of Money, they are very giving and very kind. Some people have made fun of my Portuguese; but most are very kind and helpful. I love the people already!
Our investigators that have the most potential are Antonia, and a man named Nelson and his daughter. A major road block for baptism here is that no one is married! Marriage is a huge problem. I guess they don’t really see the need to get married; but people live together all the time. We have to teach them why it is important to be married to the person they are living with, before they can be baptized. This can be difficult sometimes.
I am going through a huge learning curve right now; and there is so much to do in so little time. I am so focused on the people I’m serving, I haven’t been thinking about people from home.
This is going to be an amazing 16 months! I’m so excited to learn Portuguese and serve the people of Carregado.
Love Sister Runyan