"And at all times, and in all places, he shall open his mouth and declare my Gospel as with the voice of a trump, both day and night. And I will give unto him strength as is not known among men."

-D&C 24:12

Monday, August 25, 2014

Finally in Portugal!!!!

   Do I have a TON to tell you!
   So I live in Portugal now. WIERD. But Lagos is really cool! Really hard, but really cool! Where should I start?
   Ah, yes. President Fluckiger picked us up from the airport with all of his assistants On wednesday night and we all drove to the mission home. I was the first one to be interviewed, so that´s how I got to tell you my first area. We all had lasagna and then we slept at the mission home. The mission home has an AMAZING VIEW of the 4 most important monuments in Lisbon ALL AT THE SAME TIME. The torre de Belem, the 25 de Abril (the big bridge in the picture that looks like the san francisco bridge), the Rei Jesus, and the monument of all the portuguese explorers.
   It´s the coolest.
   In the morning, I met my new companion and trainer, Sister Echeverria. She´s really cool and a very good misisonary, and this is her last transfer, so i´m "killing her". We then had some training and the whole zone parted ways, since we´re all going to different parts of the country. Luckily, I had the longest to travel (by bus): 5 HOURS. But... I did see sooooo much beautiful countryside!
   5 hours (and half an hour of lugging suitcases up STEEP hills) later, we got to our apartment. It´s small, but it has a really beautiful view of the street. We live really close to this catholic church that rings a bell every half hour. We also live RIGHT next to the tourist district (we´re literally in the center of it), which vaguely reminds me of Key West (but not as crowded, trashy, or creepy).
   Oh, did I mention? Lagos is HUGE. It used to be split up into two areas: us and the elders, But then they closed the Elders´ area and now it´s all ours. There are so many hills, apartment buildings (everyone lives in apartment buildings. I haven´t seen 1 house since I´ve been here), cafes, and the like. It´s right next to the sea, so you always hear seagulls and there´s almost always a breeze, which is good. It´s in the southwestern tip of Portugal, and our area actually includes a couple of outlying villages. One of them is really cute, it´s called Odiaxere. It´s the kind of place where all the old men gather in one place a wear those newsboy caps and play chess, and there´s a bunch of small shops and cafes on the mainstreet, and the streets are all cobblestone. Oh and EVERYONE is either catholic (most of them) or evangelic.
   Oh, we do have a senior couple in Lagos, too. They are the Jeffers, and they´re super nice. Elder Jeffers is actually our branch president, and sister jeffers is really nice. They´ve been in this area for 7 months already. Poor sister Jeffers still can´t understand anything, so I think she was glad I was there so we both don´t understand anything together.
   Did I mention they sent me to the only district (instead of a stake, a collection of branches is a district) in Portugal? Oh and my branch is Miniscule. There were only about 10-15 people in our sacrament meeting. Me and sister echeverria are the primary teachers, but I´ve already met some of the members, and they´re all nice.
  The first couple of days being here was MAJOR culture shock. Like MAJOR. I´m living in a foreign country where I understand NO ONE. It was weird. I´m getting more and more used to it now, but I still can´t understand anyone.
   I haven´t tried any bolos yet. Or bread from a padaria. Maybe this week, maybe next.
   Cobblestones. Cobblestones everywhere. Enough said.
   But! There are also tiles everywhere! and I LOVE the tiles! They cover entire houses, sometimes just stairs, or walls. They are so pretty.
   A lot of people walk here too.
   We have a bunch of investigators, but only one is kind of progressing. But the problem is he can´t quit smoking... EVERYONE smokes here. It´s terrible!
   Oh, and apparently in Portugal, redheads are really rare! I´ve only seen one other one. But the name for redhead is Ruiva (HOO-ee-va), so that´s cool. Also, one of the members in the ward said I look like a "boneca" (doll), so that´s also cool. Oh, did I mention that everyone says my name as pronounced man-coo-zoo? It´s kinda funny.
   Oh yeah, the beaches ARE beautiful!!!!!! They remind me of abuelita because she would love it here. We took a jog in the morning and there was a really low tide, so we just went on the sand and took pictures on the rocks!
   I met a gypsy lady on the street! And on the weekends, there are gypsy street fairs where they sell clothes and a ton of knockoff stuff.
   I´m getting used to contacting. It´s so strange stopping people on the street and talking to them. Sister E. is really good at it, but me... Not so much yet.
   Nevertheless, this past week has definitely tried my faith. It´s hard to stay positive when you get a bunch of rejections and no one wants to listen to your message, and EVERYONE is staring at you because you nametag and modest clothing (especially since it´s a beach town, so lots of people just wear swimsuits and cover-ups. BUT I need to stay positive. It´ll be hard, but I think this past week was just really hard because of the culture shock.
   Despite everything, I know the Church is true!
   I love you SOOOOOOO much!
   Sister Mancuso!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Hola Familia!
  Este es mi ultimo dia en America! Estoy tan emocionada por que ya quiero estar alli! Pero estoy triste de salir de el MTC por que hize muchos amigos, especialmente en mi zona! Ya me siento tan cerca con las otras hermanas que van para Portugal. 
  Back to english...
  I am SSSOOO EXCITED. But also nervous... AH!
  Today we were having interviews with our teachers, and he told me something really cool. He said "I feel like I need to tell you this, but: The more difficulties you face on your mission, the more the Lord trusts you." And just a couple of days ago, he told us that one thing we should do is that when we pray that night, ask for the Lord to give us all of the hardest trials, investigators, companions, etc. that the Lord thinks we need, so that we can align His will with our will and be the missionary He wants us to be.
  Soooooo... Looks like my mission is not gonna be easy... But then again, I didn't give up 18 months of my life to waste the Lord's time. I went on a mission because I know that's what the Lord wants of me, and it's not gonna be easy, but it will be worth it.
  That's one thing I've learned about being in the MTC: We need to align our will with the will of the Lord, His love needs to be our love, and His needs need to be our needs. Heavenly Father is in control, and as the scriptures say, His ways are higher than our ways. He knows what I need more than I do myself. He knows how much I can handle.
  So yesterday, our devotional speaker was Jenny Oaks Baker (an AMAZING famous violinist, who also happens to be the daughter of Apostle Dallin H. Oaks!!!! BTW, I was sitting like 10 feet away from Elder Oak's wife... Yeah. Crazy.). She was so amazing. After the devotional, I came up to her telling her what an inspiration she was and all of a sudden started crying (and you know how hard it is for me to cry) and telling her about how hard the past few weeks have been and how one of the only things that has helped me get through it was music. Then she hugged me. But really though, music has helped me so much. I find myself recalling songs that I used to sing, or beautiful hymns, and I've realized how much more I love music since I got here. I think that's because since I don't have the distractions of the world, I can just focus on the things I really love. Music has helped me to come closer to Christ and to the Lord. I've realized that since I have a talent, I have to nurture it and really develop it so I can be the best I can be.
  I also watched this AMAZING talk by David A. Bednar called "Character of Christ"! It's not readily available because it's an MTC devotional, but it is SSOO GOOD!!!!!!! It talks about how it was in the Savior's nature to turn outward and be selfless in times when the natural man would turn inward and be selfish. It really inspired me to be better. 
  What else? Well, I love you! Please keep writing me emails frequently, even though I only read them once a week.
  I love you!!!!!!!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

1 Week left in America!

HI, everyone!!!!
  I miss everyone and I hope everyone's doing great!
It's just been another week at the MTC. Nothing new except... I GOT MY VISA AND I'M TRAVELING TO PORTUGAL NEXT TUESDAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am so excited and nervous! But it's all good 'cause I'm doing the Lord's work! I have a layover in LONDON... !!!!!! Hm, what else...
  I really miss having the convenience of google...
  I learned that the church is starting to send Sister Missionaries to Africa! Super cool! There are some sisters in a different Portuguese zone going to Cape Verde and Mozambique!
  Ohohohohohohoh I got picked to sing!!!!! I get to sing at the Senior Missionary zone conference! it'll be a small crowd, but i'm happy that i get to sing, at least! cause a lot of people audition, but there aren't too many opportunities to get picked...
  Oh, I got to skype a member in Portugal to teach a lesson! Her name was Raquel and she also served her mission in Portugal! It was super cool!
  I learned that Portugal doesn't have antiperspirant deodorant, soooooooo that'll be fun. I'm actually stocking up on anything I need that isn't good or the same over there, thanks to the bookstore on campus!!!! I heard makeup wasn't too good there either, so we'll see how that goes...
  So one of our teachers told us something interesting the other day. He said that there will come a time (with the language) that we are going to be speaking portuguese and since we're new at this, we're going to try to say something, but we won't know how to and hit a wall. and it will be frustrating. he said all this so that we will only speak portuguese in class. He said we could either hit the wall here or in Portugal. Since we only have a week there, one of the elders said "We're gonna get to Portugal sprinting, then trip and hit the wall head-first!" It was kinda funny, but very true. I feel kinda confident now, but when I get to Portugal, I might not feel that way since i'll be speaking it 24/7!
  I struggled a little bit last week trying to stay positive, but this week has really gotten better. I learned that it is SUPER important to stay positive and have hope! As a missionary, i'm held to a very high standard and sometimes, I will (not necessarily by my own fault) fall short. We are human. But Christ is there to make up the difference. He knows us and loves us and wants us to succeed! I am gaining a stronger testimony of how the scriptures help me and how I can come closer to Christ just by reading about him. That's why I love the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon truly IS another Testament of Jesus Christ, and both the Bible and Book of Mormon together create a complete truth of the teachings of the Savior and of God's love for us. I promise each and every one of you, that if you read the scriptures and pray to know if what you have read is true, you WILL receive an answer. I love this Gospel and I love all of you!!!!! keep on writing me and letting know how everything is!
Sister Mancuso


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

My Favorite Things.

  I only have two more weeks living in the country I've only ever lived in! But I know it'll all be fine and I'll be ok!
  What news do i have this week?
  Not that much.
I'm getting used to wearing skirts all day, everyday! Except today, of course. Which is pretty awesome...
  I auditioned last week to sing for a devotional! It was so nerve wracking because I had to sing in front of Sister Nally (the mission president's wife)! But she told me I made the "Yes" pile, although it doesn't guarantee I will sing. Which I guess i'm fine with because I would have to sing in front of over 1300 missionaries sooooo.....
  I'm still learning the portuguese and teaching more lessons in the language! I love it, even though i'm still learning it.
  Last night I got a package from my family, and I got a little bit sad, but still happy that i'm here (and that I have CHOCOLATE COVERED PRETZELSSSSSSS). Since I was a bit down, I did what any sane person who loves Musical Theater would do: I thought of my favorite things. I wrote it down, so I thought i'd share it with you:
-The Savior
-Brown paper packages
-Beautiful  Music
-Scriptures that speak to you
-Beautiful Temples
-The air after it rains
-Beautiful weather
-Good dreams
-Reaching goals
-Hand written letters
-And of course, my dog PJ.
  Making a list actually really made me feel better, and indeed, I don't feel so bad anymore!
  Btw, I actually messed up last week when talking about the bible chapters I read. It's ACTUALLY John 21 and Acts 3! Sooooo if anyone got confused, i'm really sorry!
  Spiritual though of the week: Today I read a talk by Dieter F. Uchdorf, and I got really uplifted. It helped me so much, and if anyone feels like they have a lack of hope, please read it! I will post a link at the bottom of this letter!
  Hope everyone has an amazing week! Love you all!!!!
Sister Mancuso