Lead, Kindly Light {What I Was Doing Eleven Years Ago}

This week—11 years ago.
{A short version which might seem long.}
Sister Jackson
The last Sunday (Sept. 29th) in the Provo MTC felt like an out of body experience. It was the next-to-last day of my 8 week training period before I would be across the ocean and dropped into my new home: Portugal—and I was trying to balance my varied emotions. I remember singing with my district (a tradition—to sing with your district the last Sunday in the MTC) in Porguguese--“Brilha Meiga Luz” (Lead Kindly Light) and bore testimonies. That hymn became sacred for me that Sunday and has since been a tender favorite.

Lead, kindly Light, amid th'encircling gloom;
Lead thou me on!

Advice that I wrote in my journal included a message from Brother Fillmore: Continue in your gospel study for the best intellectual study you will ever find” I loved that quote and it has come to my mind many times since then. I have found it to be true. Scriptural study is enlightening and offers a spiritual power that cannot be earned in any other means of study.

MTC District

The Monday (Sept. 30th) before our departure was chaotic at best. We had a long list of To Do’s (written on our makeshift chalkboard (the plastic on an unwrapped mattress in our room)) including laundry, bookstore, copy center, sewing sisters, organize, pack, package stuff to send home, Thank you notes, letter writing, hair cut,  last from-the-MTC letters (many!), re-packing, re-organizing, weighing bags, taking things out, turning in keys, and I ended up sleeping from 2:30am-3:30am after a full day of running. Non-stop last-minute action.

Sister J & Sister J: scrambling to get it all packed up!

We lined up early Tuesday (Oct. 1st) morning outside building 1M --still dark and now raining—to wait for the bus to pick up the outgoing group of nametagged, anxious Elders & Sisters. It was strange to look out the bus windows and see so many familiar locations in Provo/Orem…and realize that was the last for a long while. The rain pounded hard as we unloaded at the airport and at the United Airlines desk my cheerleading crew (Kendra, Debbie, & Trevor) ran up to me—I felt a rush of calm. Trevor gave me a new, specially made CTR ring and told me he is moving home to Kentucky. My friends showered me with travel goodies and I talked to Mom and a few others on a cell phone before we loaded our first flight. 

Goodbye handshake with Trevor {awkward at best}

SLCà ChicagoàGermany
(where the passenger next to me said “Oh you have a badge, that must mean you’re important”)
à Oporto, Portugal.

Describing the feelings upon walking through airport customs and seeing my mission president & his wife for the first time: “I didn’t know whether to cry or laugh or smile. So I smiled.”

President & Sister Soares: Mission Home in Oporto, Portugal 

The night is dark, and I am far from home;
Lead thou me on!

From my journal on Wednesday October 2nd: “There are 15 Sisters in our mission today, 4 of us are new today. They received all new sisters in July, August, & October—so we’re basically all new. There are 115 Elders.”

Sister Missionaries: Oporto, Porto Mission {October 2002}

“The drive [from the airport to the mission home] was about 20 minutes, not through any big city area, but quaint…laundry hanging up, green trees, small European cars, people smoking, a few bridges, some cool designs with tiles on the outside of buildings…I was trying to drink it all in, but mostly was trying to orient myself…cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, blue-purple flowers…so beautiful!”

That first night we enjoyed a delicious meal and little devotional with President & Sister Soares. We each received a polished rock and a reminder that we are starting out like rough stones, and we will be polished through our experiences & the Savior’s invitation to grow, change, and serve with love. I can still remember going to sleep that first night in Porto. The heaviness of my tired eyes sharply contrasted the excitement in my willing feet.

Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene--one step enough for me.

Thursday (Oct. 3rd) I woke up in a daze. “I’m in Portugal—Braga here I come! I’m not really sure if I really know what this means—I’m here—and my job? We get up at 7am and are out until 10pm, bed by 11pm. I hand washed my dress last night—I wanted to wear it today because it’s so easy and then I don’t have to iron.”

My first companionship was a ‘tripla’—there were three of us Sisters serving together (instead of the typical two) and we were living and working in the beautiful, hillside, historic city of Braga. It is the third largest city in Portugal and the furthest area in our mission in which Sister missionaries could serve.

Trains, buses, bikes for these missionaries!

We rode two different trains to get to our apartment, dropped off my bags and went to Loja de Sopas for dinner before walking a couple of miles to an appointment. I taught principles 3 & 4 in the 2nd palestra. I was terrified but stumbled through it. Before going to bed I wrote in my journal “I don’t think I’ve walked so much in a big city before…my feet ache! And I’m excited about that.”

So long thy pow'r hath blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on

Friday (Oct. 4th) I woke up for the first time in my first missionary apartment—at 6:55am. It was an older apartment, up at least one flight of stairs. I remember the outside traffic sounds I could hear in the office and the huge closet in an empty room across the hall where I unpacked my clothes.

From my journal that first day in Braga: “We went to email at a local library for emails and on the way 1)I almost stepped in dog poo (note to self: watch out!), 2) an old man with no teeth stopped us and said I have no idea what, 3) all the old ladies where dresses & heels. At the grocery store I noticed TONS of yogurt, milk in cartons (that can stay on the shelf), no one bags your stuff, and lots of amazing chocolate. Shopping means walking home with lots of groceries which was new & strange. We taught part of the 1st discussion to a Brasilian lady and her baby Philipe…then also to Luis who believes in reincarnation and loves to talk. We walk everywhere. I can’t believe it.”

Uphill, downhill...cobblestones

O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone

Saturday (Oct. 5th) “We left and walked up around the centro to Alena’s house—Her two kids were home alone when we stopped by so we shared with them some scriptures. It was cool to hear these two kids speak Portuguese so fluently and I tried to visualize each word as Ruben & Marisa spoke. I have so much to learn. They live in such sad circumstances...”

Braga Centro

“…we walked through the centro. I love it! It is so beautiful! Shops, stores, market stops, a fountain—quaint and a tad touristy…o minho is the area we’re in and I’m falling in love. I’m so glad we get to live in this part of Braga!”

Braga Centro

“We knocked doors & doors & doors & doors until our appointment with Florenzee. She has dark curles, mysterious eyes, welcoming smile, & a Brasilian ambiance. She is here for work & school but has a few issues with what we’re teaching. Let’s just say…her current employment is in nighttime entertainment.  It was easy for me to get lost in the conversation between the thick Brasilian accent and her slight lisp, but she is so eager to learn and read scriptures with us. We then continued to knock doors until we got to our other compromisso with “the Brasileiros”. I guess the Sisters found them earlier this week, we taught the 1° again—4 rapazes (boys) & 1 rapariga (girl)…they seemed intent and curious. The most marvelous thing—the feelings you feel while teaching are amazing. Even when I’m so nervous. The things I DO know how to say are the most important. Eu sei que… (I know that…”)

And with the morn those angel faces smile,
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile!

Balcony of our Braga Apartment

That first week as a sister missionary in Portugal
 was intense
{physically, emotionally, & mentally}
I was given opportunities to push myself
And feel the love of God
Lead me on
Through the truths we were teaching
And the people to whom we were ministering.

And learned more about myself than I ever will again in such a short period of time.
I fell in love with all things Portuguese
And what it means to follow that ‘kindly light’
Which has been the greatest of all the lessons ever taught or learned by missionaries worldwide.


I loved to choose and see my path; but now,
Lead thou me on!


Lyrics from Lead,Kindly Light
Found hFound hereere


Katie Bradley said...

Sister Jackson! I didn't get to read this until today what with all the preschool prep and whatnot. What a joy to read about your first days! You're such a lovely writer, even in your journal. What sacred memories.

Sharalea said...

Thank you for your kind compliments. I've re-read it so many times since I posted it...that week is like a time stamp on my soul, it was good for me to go through the photos & write some of it out. I'm grateful for my missionary journals--some entries had great descriptive words, others did not--but they all tell a piece of that days' experiences. If only a video recorder could have followed us around! Those memories slip away too quickly.