Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Pantufo's Big Adventure

Cherished ones,

Everybody says that "the days are like weeks and the weeks are like days" on missions, and other cute expressions like that.  But they're wrong.  The days are like weeks and the weeks are like centuries and the months are like eons. 

Not in a bad way!  Like, I don't say that to mean that I'm dying out here.  I'm happier than I've ever been in my life and have the most satisfying, meaningful life ever.  I love it!

But there is some phenomenon of expanded time.  I think it's because we are focused on ONE PURPOSE all day every day and it just feels like SO MANY really important things happen every day, every week.

This week was incredible.  And bizarre.  This week, we:

Slogged through the biggest downpour of my mission so far. On Christmas Eve.  NO ONE was in the streets.  We cheerily walked the 45 minutes to Bacelo to deliver some presents to some less active members (it really was fun).  By the time we got there we were so wet that I could wring out my skirt like a soaked wash rag.  Ha!  We went home to change after that but our second pair of clothes got just as wet.  :)

Experienced Christmas as a missionary for the first (and last) time.  Our Christmas was good!  Lots of chocolate, a lunch at Nazaré's, talked to my favorite people in the whole universe, visited a bunch of people who were going to be alone that day.  It was a good day. 

Gave up on marking Manuel for baptism last weekend.  We had felt all month like the 29th would be a good day for him, that he was ready and had true desire, but he just kept resisting and resisting, so we decided to drop the issue.

Marked Manuel for baptism last weekend.  In our lesson on Friday night, we read Enos and talked about prayer. Sister Gutz mentioned goals, and said, in passing, "you can have all sorts of goals -- reading the book of mormon daily, praying more, we know you have a goal of baptism, ...."  Then Manuel was like, "Yeah, can I still be baptized on the 29th?"

SAY WHAT!?

The first words out my mouth were, "Aiaiai, Manuel!"  We had told him numerous times that to plan a baptism in Évora we needed at LEAST a week's notice.  The little fart! But we looked at each other and said, "Yes, Manuel, we'll make it happen.  Your baptismal interview has to happen tomorrow.  Does 5 work for you?  Okay, we'll come pick you up at 4:30, okay?  Okay.  4:30.  See you tomorrow."

Woo!  This is how we roll in Evora, apparently.  Mark people the same week they get baptized.

Planned and organized a baptism in Èvora is ONE DAY.  Never a dull moment here.

Thoroughly annoyed all of Manuel's roommates.  So Saturday arrives and the Elders of Beja, bless them, had agreed to drop everything they had planned to take a bus to Evora and interview Manuel for baptism. We went to his house to get him at 4:30, as planned, and ... he's not home. WHAT!??  Se we're stressing ALL THE WAY out, demanding of all his buddies where he is/when he left/who he could be with/when he might come back/where he normally goes when he leaves/ARE YOU SURE HE'S NOT IN THERE!??  The Elders have to catch their train home at 7:02.  We ran around the city looking for him, praying, and eventually at about 5:30 decided just to head back to the church.  We run into him on our way. PHEW!!  He is such a stressful creature. 

"Where were you!?"

"Having lunch with some friends."

"WHAT!?  Manuel, Four thirty does NOT mean Five thirty." ...

It's all good, he passed his interview with flying colors.  He really gets this stuff, it's just little details like getting up on time and getting places on time that he struggles with.  Will you pray for him?  I see a lot of potential in Manuel.  But his roommates are kind of put out with us.  Will you pray for us to know how to gracefully improve that?

Rencountered Ulisses!  Did I tell you about Ulisses?  He's way cool and we've bumped into him in miraculous ways 3 times now.  Manuel told us he wanted to invite his friends (a couple with a daughter) to his baptism.  Right on!  So he brings us to these friends´house.  It's ULISSES!  Awesome.  Ulisses came to the baptism and was a real prince.  I have huper high hopes for him.  He just seems really light-filled.  Will you start praying for him and his wife/girlfriend Ana?  We want to start teaching him. 

Witnessed Manuel's baptism. In Evora with the only 3 active priesthood holders and the Branch President out of town, planned in one day, and it all went rather smoothly!  Blessings.  The members are real champs.  They really are.

Made friends (accidentally) with a cute white dog who we named Pantufo and who followed us around Evora for 3 hours last night.  Eventually we walked him back to where we'd encountered him and returned him.  His owner became a new investigator!  How's that for a finding activity?  It was actually really fun to have him along all evening.  We kept trying to lose him but man was he faithful.  I've bonded so much more with animals on my mission than ever before.  Random!

And more. I can't even write about some of the other cool things that happened this week.  I swear, you guys, at the end of every day I'm like, wait, it's STILL THURSDAY!?, or whatever day it is. Just SO MUCH HAPPENS.


I realized last night that right now I am exactly half way through my mission. All things considered, that feels about right. No longer a baby missionary, but still with a lot more hopes and dreams and lessons to learn in front of me. 

Most of all I am just grateful. So, so grateful for the opportunity to do this.  I see my weaknesses and failings so much as a missionary, but I also see how huge and infinite and transformative is the power of Christ's grace.  I am changed, permanently, for having chosen to serve a mission.  It's like my life was heading down one train track, not a bad one, but my mission jolted me, bounced me, re-routed me onto an infinitely better one.  For that I am humbly grateful.

I love you so much!  Big hugs,

Annie


Okay.  Explanation.  The three white guys in this photo are our three priesthood holders in Évora.  The far right is Amilcar Calado, the first counselor in the branch.  He has a peg leg.  In the font with Manuel is Americo, Nazaré's husband.  Someday I will try to impersonate him for you.  But I will not succeed.  Far left is Irmão Rocha, the bearded legend.  They are..... the priesthood of Èvora.

And the smiling black guy in the font is Manuel!  More to follow.

Manuel and Ulisses


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Feliz Suavidade

Dearest Family,

I love reading you each week.  It lifts me up!  One of my favorite lines from this week is, "Dallin Vayle Bayles will buy Ben's CDs in heaven."  True that!!

Your packages arrived this week!  Thank you, thank you!  Thanks for including gifts for Sister Gutz.  She was tickled.  :)  Grandma, thanks for the stuff for members/investigators!  I wrapped up the fig newtons to give to Nazare and she was sooo excited.  She's saving them for Christmas to open.  She was touched that you sent something for her!

You guys!  Thank you for living close to the Spirit.  Do you want to hear about the coolest miracle?  So, we were getting really low on one of the things we use most: copies of the Livro de Mormon.  We only had one left, but we assumed we'd be able to get more at the Christmas Conference.  Well, we didn't.  So we had half of December stretching out in front of us and only ONE Book of Mormon to give out.  UH OH.  

Then, we went to the post office to pick up the packages you sent.  I saw "books" on the customs slip and thought nothing of it.  Then we opened it up and there were FIVE beautiful, crisp Livros de Mormon, complete with pictures of gorgeous YOU GUYS and testimonies.  I wept.  WEPT, you guys.  Various times that day.  Oh man, it was just the coolest tender mercy.  Thank you so much!

I'm going to bullet point some salient moments from the week:

- We got dropped by Rosalina.  It was really, really sad.

- We taught Joao and Luis at the church on Saturday with Nely.  (These are the two guys who contacted us last week and came to church last week.)  They are super cool and sincere, especially Joao.  He totally looks like Neil L. Anderson, like, Sister Gutz and I thought that independently of each other.  There is just something apostolic about him.  He's digesting this all at his own pace, but I think he could be a miracle in store for Evora.  I gave them Coby's copy of the Book of Mormon, with the dedicatory note translated onto a sticky note.  Thanks, Cobe!!

- Nazare invited Manuel to have lunch at her house on Christmas with us.  We're so excited!  Manuel is inching forward.  He's so so so ready, he just doesn't want to get baptized and then foob out.  Which is actually really wonderful.  Keep praying for him!  He is going to be such a stellar missionary daqui em breve.

- Sonia came to church this week and heard about Family History/Vicarious work and LOVES it.  She's way stoked about learning more about it.  Cool, huh?  Marina is in Lisbon for Christmas.  Keep praying for them!  Integrating into the Ramo de Evora is no smooth ride.


Can I share with you an Audrey Hepburn quote I found this week and love?

"People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed and redeemed and redeemed."

Isn't that lovely? And so true.  We need redemption.  We need a Redeemer.  We need covenants that bind us to Him and bring us renewal and rebirth.  

All of us need these things.  No one is above the need for redemption, renewal, revivification.    

I was thinking how one way we can show our gratitude to Christ for His redemption of us is by redeeming other people.  Like, not redeeming them in the way only He can, but redeeming them in the ways we can -- forgiving them, pardoning them, seeing the best in them, giving them second chances, looking past their faults, treating them as the people they can become and truly are.  We have so much influence over the people around us!  Let us represent our Redeemer better in the way we treat others!  

Praise Him!

I love you.

Love,
Sister Sandholtz

ps.  See you in TWO DAYS!!




Derramado

Derramar is a Portuguese verb that means "to pour out".  It's one of my favorites.  Nosso misericordioso Pai tem sido derramando bençãos sobre Évora.  É um privilegio muito grande estar aqui neste momento. (Our merciful Father has been pouring out blessings upon Évora. It is a great privilege to be here right now.)

FAMBAM! The ones I love most.

Aw, I just want to talk to you.  Oh wait!  Next week I will!  Sister Gutz is planning on talking with her family at 7:30 our time, which will be 12:30 for Utah, so I could do it at 6:30 or 8:30 or whenever else you want me to.  If y'all are going skiing or something and want to talk earlier in the morning, I'm probably pretty flexible.

I can't believe Sonia's baptism was only one week ago. This week felt like eternity.  But not in a bad way. Evora is POPPING!  It feels like everyone we talk to lately wants to hear our message.  I have gotten to the point where I really don't mind contacting.  It is super interesting to talk to so many different types of people and just try to radiate love at them like a space heater while we talk.

Some of my favorite moments from the week:

1. Tall Jorge was in rare form this week. Ha!  I wish you guys could see the facial expressions he makes while trying to speak English. In the middle of our lesson he had a burp so he turned his head away and blew the air away from us, saying, "Perdao perdao perdao".  Then he turned back to us and with a huge grin said, "It was a little blowy air of my lunch." hahahahaha oh my goodness he just makes me so happy.

2. Manuel came to church again yesterday! Woot!  Keep praying. :)  He's so ready.  He told us this week that we and he and Wayne should go to Sao Tomé to bring the gospel there.  (He thinks you're really cool, Wayne.  Thanks for being friends with him.)  He's so converted. We want to mark him for 29 Dezembro. 

3. We got contacted this week by 3 middle aged Portuguese guys.  They were like, "Hi, Sisters", so we started talking with them and invited them to church. They had talked to other missionaries in the past and 2 of them actually came to church.  One of them, João, was beaming the whole time. After sacrament meeting he told me, "I really loved this service.  Thank you for your talk. It was so nice to hear a feminine voice at a pulpit. I like this church.  I am going to come back next week."  RAD, right?  His buddy Luis told us that he had been nervous before church but after the meeting felt really calm. Pretty cool. The members were really excited about them, too. We need more Priesthood Holders!


I have been thinking lately about the things I love about being a missionary.  I want to share some of them with you:

1. Having the chance to practice focusing completely on others instead of myself. It is SO good for me. I am so lucky that I have a year and a half to really try to make that part of me.  I love it so much.

2. Constantly learning. Portuguese, gospel, about other people, from my companions and the members and investigators.  I am constantly being taught.

3. Seeing myself and others grow and change.  Change is so cool. Being a missionary has changed me.  Permanently.  I am a different version of myself because of this opportunity. I love watching the transformation, in me and in the people we interact with. God is so powerful!  I loved the analogy of the balloon, Dad.  I too have lots of dead air to turn into helium.  Every little bit truly does lead to new lightness. 

4. Having sisters for the first time in my life.  It's the BEST. Sister Gutz is so rad. I am excited for you guys to meet her one day. We have such a great time. Sometimes for exercise we have dance parties and I must say she is an awkward dancing CHAMPION.  We've got to find a way to get her to come to one of the family reunions so that all can be blessed by her talents.

5. Striving to worthily fulfill my calling as a representative of Jesus Christ. He is all that is noble, kind, loving, and good. It is a never ending quest to embody His attributes and worthily represent Him. I love trying for that, even though I fall comically short. It is such a privilege.  People trust Him, what he represents.  The more we become like Him, the more they trust us.

6. Praying with people.  It is so AWESOME to witness all sorts of different people talk to Heavenly Father.  Prayer is the coolest thing ever.  I am so humbled as I see people humble themselves before Him and communicate with Him.  Words cannot express.  Palavras não bastam.

Being a missionary is just the sweetest, most exquisite experience.  I am filled with gratitude.

What else did I want to tell you?

Sonia and Marina are doing good.  Marina came to church yesterday; Sonia had to work.  But the branch is doing a good job of reaching out.  Tonight we are going to have a family night with them at Nely's.  Keep praying for them!

There is this awesome lady we are teaching named Rosalina who has an autistic son and has been through a lot. We are setting her up this week (as friends) with Lina, a recent convert who has been through lots of similar trials. You guys, there is SO MUCH domestic violence in Portugual. It is heartbreaking and sickening. My heart breaks time and time again when I hear the stories of these strong, uncomplaining Portuguese women.

Okay well I'd better log off. Thank you for being such an amazing Zion family.  I am inspiried and awestruck by you.

Love you hugely.

I will try to log on later in the day next Monday so I can communicate with you about Skyping.

Yours yours yours,

Annie

ps. names for your prayer roll, Wayne:
Sonia and Marina
Manuel
The Evora Branch in general (I know that's vague, sorry) that it will continue to heal and grow
Also if you want, Joao and Luis and Lina and Rosalina, all mentioned above.  Love you!

pps.  has my package arrived yet?  keep an eye out!








Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Wonder of Wonders: READ THIS ONE.

Dear Family,

This week was HUGE.  The most miraculous, stressful week of my life.

I will try to relate it as concretely as possible.

The magic started on Monday night, when our District Leader in our nightly phone call invited us to make a list of all our investigators who could possibly be baptized the coming Sunday and pray about them.  He promised us that if we did this, we would have a baptism this weekend. 

Now, I feel it's important you understand Elder Silva.  He is AMAZING. This is his second-to-last transfer.  He is this tall, gentle Cabo Verdian who wears sweaters and is just plain good.  We interact with him for seriously 2.5 minutes per night on the phone because he's a very get-the-job-done-and-don't-dally-around kind of missionary, but we know how dedicated he is and he is super close to the Spirit.  Like, we know he was getting all sorts of pressure from the ZL's all transfer to pressure us to mark people for baptism but he would always ask us if we prayed about it and how we felt and therefore didn't pressure us to do anything we didn't feel was right.  (Hallelujah!)

Anyway, so when Elder Silva makes a promise like that, you just KNOW it's real.  Both Sister Gutz and I felt it when he said it.

So the next morning in Comp Study we made a list and talked it over and made a decision and prayed about it. We decided to mark Sonia and Marina for baptism THIS SUNDAY.  We called the RS pres and the Branch Pres and Pte. Fluckiger to make sure it was okay, and made plans to mark them that night.  In our Skype district meeting (Elder Silva's area is 200 km away! I'm telling you Evora is isolated!!) we asked Elder Silva and Diaz to pray for us at 7h00 when we would be having our lesson with Sonia and Marina. Elder Silva said he would pray at 6h00.

So we went through our day.  At about 6h10, Sonia called us.  She had to cancel our appointment for that night because they had to go have dinner with a relative.  Pants!  We had felt so sure about marking them that day!  We made plans to visit the next day, and as the phone call was winding down, I asked Sonia, "Sonia, are you feeling like you are receiving an answer about the Book of Mormon and our message?"

"Well, yeah, I think I am.  It is going how I hoped it would go"

I got wide-eyed and gave Sister Gutz a look that said, "I think we are about to mark Sonia for baptism over the phone!" She immediately started praying with all the fervor of her bright 19 year old soul. I really believe that what happened next was largely a result of her faithful, earnest prayer.  And Elder Silva's. And yours.

"Sonia, will you follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized?"

"Yeah, I will.  I was thinking we could do it all as a family."

"Well, we actually don't baptized kids until they are at least 8 years old..."

"Oh, yeah, so they can choose to do it.  That makes sense."

"But you and Marina can do it together!"

"Okay."

"So, will you do it this Sunday?"

"Wow!  This Sunday!?  ... Tá Bem! (Okay!)  We'll talk more about the details tomorrow."

"Okay,  See you tomorrow."

I hung up and almost collapsed.  Sister Gutz and I both started crying and hugging each other and laughing.  It was just so weird and intense and there we were in the middle of a deserted dark Portuguese street on a Tuesday night with a cell phone and something much bigger than ourselves.

The next day when we arrived for our lesson, Sonia was like, "All right, how is this Baptism thing going to go?"

We talked about it and taught our lesson (we still had a LOT to teach them before the baptism.  Really, anyone in their right mind wouldn't have marked them so soon.  But the more I've thought about it the more I know it just HAD to be this Sunday.)

The next day the STL's were here and we taught her tithing, which was a little tense at first but she ended up accepting.  We finished teaching everything on Friday and reviewed the interview questions. 

I had a freak-out moment on Friday during weekly planning when we were calling to invite members to the baptism (before church on Sunday, our Branch President prefers it that way) and they were all like, "That's EARLY!", and Americo was like, "Who's SONIA!?", and I was like (in my brain), "SONIA HAS COME TO YOUR HOUSE FOR FAMILY NIGHT TWICE!  HOW CAN YOU NOT KNOW WHO SHE IS!??"  But Sister Gutz helped me calm down.

It really was remarkable.  Although it was extremely stressful and so much could have gone wrong, we both just had this underlying calm all week.  We knew that everything was going to turn out fine.  Every time we taught, there was this great warmth and rightness.

The Elders from Beja took a bus up here to do the interviews on Saturday.  They are the closest missionaries to us -- about an hour bus ride away.  Our branch president arrived that night as well (he lives 2 hours away) and was able to meet Sonia and make sure everything was right on the fichas. (forms? records? whatever the word is for the document they have to fill out before baptism.)

Sunday Morning.  I washed my hair in the freezing shower water because we were out of propane to heat our shower.  We had also hardly drunk any water for the last 2 days because we were out and were too stressed to go buy more water.  Ha!

We got to the church early and checked the font.  It was warm! YES!!  Sonia and Marina and the two little boys were going to ride with members (one with Nazare, the other 3 with Angelina), and were supposed to arrive at the church around 9h00.  It got to be 9h00 and no one had showed up yet.  We called Marina. 

Turns out Sonia had fallen down the stairs on their way out the door, spilled food everywhere (in addition to all this she had prepared a dish to share at the ward christmas party after church!  talk about going the extra mile!), and injured her foot pretty badly.  So they were running a little late. 

Okay.  No big deal.  We expected things to start a little late.  This is Évora.

Then ..... Angelina walks in the door of the church.  WHAT!?

"They didn't show up on time so I just left."

This actually made me quite mad.  Hot tears sprang to my eyes.  Why would you ditch them to arrive on time to their baptism, without them?!! 

All right.  Damage control.  Let's see what we can do. Call Nazaré.

Declaration: Nazaré Nobre is the most wonderful person in the country of Portugal, and is going straight to the Celestial Kingdom.

She was like, "Okay, I'll just call a taxi and we'll all get there.  No worries."

I love her.

So everyone got there.  By this time there were lot of members there, more than usual because it was the Christmas Program.  Sonia and Marina changed into the baptismal clothes and sat near the font.  ("The Portable Baptistry", it's kind of like one of those portable swimming pools.  So funny.  I will try to send a picture.)  All the members stood in a big circle in the room.  I really loved that we were all in a circle.  It was beautiful.

Oh! Guess who came!?  MANUEL!  YES!  And Lina, a recent convert who hasn't been coming much but is awesome.  Score!

We sang "I am a Child of God" and one of the members, Maria Joao, gave a really beautiful prayer.  I bore a short testimony, President Silva spoke on baptism, then they were both baptized.  It was really lovely.  Just as I had hoped, I think everyone -- Sonia, Marina, as well as the members and investigators present -- really felt the importance and joy of this covenant Marina and Sonia were making. 

They were confirmed in Sacrament Meeting directly after the baptism.  Poor Sonia!  Her foot was really pretty injured; you could tell she was in a lot of pain. We brought her some ice during Sunday School, which helped some.

The members did a great job of reaching out to her and Marina.  They mentioned in their opening and closing prayers how grateful they were to see her baptism that day and welcomed her into the branch.  Nazare sat by Sonia, Manuel sat by Marina and Nely.

After church we had the christmas lunch/party, with a program to follow.  Sonia left after lunch to put Ricardo down for a nap.  I can't even imagine how overwhelming the day must have been for her.  Busted foot, baptism, an abundance of the spirit (which is overwhelming and/or tiring, especially when it's new), all these new experiences and people and not knowing exactly what is was going to be like or what was expected of her, a whole bunch of even-more-than-usually idiosyncratic Mormons all up in her grill the whole time.  I hope she was able to go home and process it all.  Holy cow!  I'm stressed just thinking about it!   But all in all it was just a BEAUTIFUL experience and day and I know she felt that despite all the stress.  I am excited to talk to her about it and get her perspective!

Marina stayed for the Christmas Program.  Our choir sang, we read some scriptures, and then shared talents.  I brought my violin (seeing Nazare and Sister Gutz dance to a fiddling tune together was a real treat), a bunch of the members sang or recited poetry, and ...are your ready for this? ...Manuel RAPPED.   The members took it so well! Like, all these old Portuguese set-in-their-ways members were all encouraging and supportive to this young African rapper.  He was going to do his rap about Jesus but he forgot the words so he just did one about his ex-girlfriend.  Ha!  Nazare started kinda singing along during the chorus.  Guys, she's SO COOL.

Finally it ended. Sister Gutz and I really just wanted to curl up in fetal position for the rest of the day, but we went out and found some novos and visited a less active family and FINALLY got the transfer call.  (In addition to all this it was the last day of the transfer.)  We're both staying!!  Hooray!  I am delighted to have another transfer in Evora with Sister Gutz.

So that's the story.  Holy freaking Moly, you guys.

What I learned:

1.  God is in charge.  He prepared Sonia and Marina for baptism, not us.  He had them ready for this Sunday, so he set everything in motion with an inspired promise from our District Leader and things fell into place.  Don't move until you see it.

2. Baptizing someone in Evora is the most stressful thing in the universe.  Ha!  Hopefully we have a little more time to prepare Manuel's baptism.  I really think he's going to do it soon.  He loved their baptism.

A request:

Will you all continue to pray for Sonia and Marina and the Evora branch?  The baptism was beautiful and miraculous, but it is just the beginning!  What Sonia and Marina really need is to be continually nourished by the good word of God and continue to become more and more converted to Christ and His gospel.  And, frankly, Evora is not a super warm-and-cozy sort of incubator environment for new converts.  If I was baptized here I would probably fall away.  But I know Sonia and Marina have the strength and wisdom and awesomeness to continue on and, as they learn from the branch, also contribute to it and raise it up. Will you pray for this?

Will you also thank Heavenly Father specifically for being so merciful and good to us?

Aw, guys, I love you so so much. 

My life is so wild out here.  I am really happy though and feel good.

Love
love love
love love love,

Annie

When Christmas came early
Um, I have no idea how they got me to put this on...

These are Sonia's kids Leonardo and Ricardo. So cute.

This is Nazare Nobre. She is going straight to the Celestial Kingdom. And Maria Joao. She's cool too.

Want to see a BEARD!? This guy was the first missionary to serve from Portugal. Irmao Rocha.

Guess who came to the whole party? He's next ...

Graffiti says it all


Friday, December 6, 2013

Shut up, Soul

That is what came to my brain first when we were trying to translate the phrase, "Be Still My Soul".  Not quite right.

Beloveds!  How are you?

This week was lovely.  Absolutely lovely.  I think Heavenly Father was just merciful to us.  We didn't even do that many contacts this week, but it was like everyone we talked to wanted to hear our message.  We also had a lot of miracles.

Sonia.  Sonia is (I'm pretty sure) the first person I contacted in Évora.  It was at night, she was standing near a public playground where her two sons were playing.  We gave her a copy of the Family Proclamation and arranged a follow-up visit.  Over the last 5 weeks, we've gotten to know her and her family.  Her daughter Marina (13) has been coming weekly to our English classes.  Marina came to church with us last Sunday.  Then Sonia and Marina and the two little boys (SO CUTE), Leonardo (5) and Ricardo (4) came to a Family Night at Nazare's house last Monday.  

This Family Night was SO GREAT, you guys.  Almost all the active members came - we were 14 in total.  We watched the movie To This End Was I Born.  Nazare made delicious food and we all sat around the table together and enjoyed it.  There was SUCH a spirit of convivialness (that's probably not a word) and love.  Heavenly Father is pouring out so many blessings on our little branch.  All the members were enchanted with Sonia and her kids.  They fit right in!  Leonardo stole the show; he's a super bright, fun, polite kid.  I will try to send a picture of them.

We met with them during the week and invited Sonia to attend church.  She didn't have to work this Sunday and so agreed!  Yesterday we walked to her house to pick them up.  We got to help little Leonardo and Ricardo put on their hats and gloves and walk with them.  Oh my gosh, you guys, KIDS!!  They are so cool.  Sonia participated in all the classes and Nazare was thrilled at the opportunity to teach Primary for once!  

Oh, you guys, I just think that Sonia and her family and the Evora Branch will be a mutually beneficial partnership.  This branch needs some life, some newness.  Sonia needs the gospel!  Leonardo and Ricardo need to grow up into missionaries!  Marina needs For the Strength of Youth and Young Womens to help her navigate being a teenager in this less-than-uplifting modern environment.

Will you pray for them?  This is my Christmas wish.  I want so much for Sonia and her family to become converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ and join with us.  Sonia could be the next Nelma.  Kind of.

Manuel.  Manuel!  We met with him this week and had decided to be brave and teach him about Tithing.  It was at the end of a particularly tough day -- we'd spent the whole day listening to complaints and gossip -- but before the lesson we prayed we would be able to have the Spirit with us.  We walked with Manuel to the bench we always sit on to teach him.  He told us how he felt great because he had been inside all day long composing a rap about Jesus.  We taught about tithing, and he LOVED it.  He thought it was cool and commited immediately to live it once he's ...baptized!  He told us he wants to be baptized and is going to!  Time frame is still pretty long-term -- he's thinking Janeiro or Fevereiro -- but we are going to pray hard to know if we should try to get it to happen sooner and if so, when.

The reason he wants to wait is because he doesn't want to do it if he's not living it.  Like, he hasn't been coming to church regularly and doesn't want to be baptized if he's not acting like a baptized person should.  Which is actually AWESOME.  He has a really hard time getting up for church.  Will you pray for him to be able to get himself to church consistently and make it a real habit?

Jackson.  Jackson is a Brazilian theater student less active who used to put on a lot of activities in the church and stuff but now he's just really busy.  We have been trying to get in touch with him forEVER.  Earlier this week we walked out to Bacelo at night (30ish minutes powerwalking) to see if he was at his house.  Nope.  We talked with his sister and headed back.  Last night we had him as a back up plan.  When our appointment fell, we decided to try again.  We booked it out to Bacelo again and knocked on his door.  The house was dark.  We prayed.  A car pulled up.  He had arrived home with his Dad!  We got to talk to him and I made him promise he'd text us his new phone number once he's in the same place as his phone.

As we walked back I was thinking about faith.  Sometimes faith is not much different than just plain old hard work.  Being willing to speedwalk in the dark to Bacelo at 8:40 on a freezing Sunday night when it probably would be easier to wander around the city for a bit so we could get in right at 9:30 rather than close to 10:00.  (our schedule is a half hour later than most missionaries; we wake at 7 and go to bed at 11.)  It was just our willingness to DO it that brought it to pass.  

A guy named Ulisses came to church yesterday.  Young, Cabo Verdian, we havent even taught him anything yet but he came!  He's coming to Noite Familiar tonight too.  I am hoping he can be Manuel's friend and also get baptized.

We got to go to Lisbon for a 7-stake Zone Conference!  I saw a lot of missionary friends I really love.  Elder Herycz and Elder Brooksby, Sister Wach, Elder Staples.  Some MTC peeps that I haven't seen for 7 months!  I really love missionaries. 

Elder Dyches spoke at the conference.  Funny story - I played a musical number at the conference.  Afterwards, Elder Dyches told me to not put my violin away.  He made the analogy of how we need to be in tune with the spirit just like the violin needs to be in tune with the piano (little did he know I had spent 10 minutes tuning to this piano, which was almost a whole step flat!!)  He walked over to me, grabbed the A-peg of my violin, and twisted it 90 degrees.  YIKES!  In my brain I was like OH NO! DON'T TOUCH MY VIOLIN!!!!!!!!!!! and I think my face showed my surprise because some of the missionaries laughed and Sister Gutz told me after that my face was totally wide-eyed.  Luckily he loosened the peg rather than tightening it - the string could have broken.  The A-peg is really stubborn, so I had to try to tune it back up while everyone watched.  Ha!  But yeah, it was cool.  A general authority messed with my violin.

The conference was really great.  I think my favorite moment was at the end when Elder and Sister Dyches were leaving with Pte and Sis Fluckiger.  They all had tears in their eyes as they looked at this big group of missionaries.  Sister Fluckiger choked out, "Smile!".  President Fluckiger, tears on his face, solemnly said, "Baptize."

It was SO THEM.  I wish you guys knew them so you could understand why that made me laugh and cry.

I had a dream the night before that Mom and Ben were at the conference wearing Zupas uniforms.  I gave Ben the biggest hug ever.  It was a good dream.  :)

Sorry this is so long.

I am going to try out singing hymns to God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.  We also like to translate hymns directly back to English.  My favorite is The First Noel.  The part that goes, "Noel, noel, noel noel," you just sing, "Christmas, Christmas, Christmas, Christmas!"  Ha.

Okay.  I love you.

Yours,

Annie

Here are some photos a former missionary took when he visited with his wife.  This is basically all the active members in the branch plus Manuel.


This is the Phippens.  The LEGENDS:

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Joyful Noise

First.  Sounds like a PACKED house and a packed week and a truly abundant stretch!  Your descriptions of the previous week were beautiful!  Ben, Congrats!  It sounds like your court of honor was spectacular.  The Clay Christenson lecture sounds awesome.  I am super excited to read his book when I get home.  The Synthesis concert sounds great too!  How is Aaron McMurray still at BYU?  You're right, Dad, he's a total genius.  Like, I really believe he is.  I have seen him do one of those pre-song solos before and I my jaw was on the floor.  Literally.  ;)  Last night we passed a window that had a flyer advertising Jazz jam sessions and I thought to myself, if I was just visiting here, I would go to that.  But it starts at 10 and is in a bar.  Pants.

Ah, guys, I'm pretty darn happy.

Natalina is doing well.  She loved family night at Nely's and is coming to another family night at Nazare's tonight.  As are Sonia and her daughter Marina.  Marina came to church yesterday!  I think she liked it.  

Manuel is going to record some of his raps this week.  He practiced a few for us and he's pretty good!  He's really enjoyed talking to you on FB, Wayne! He hasn't been coming to church and I wouldn't really say he's progressing.  But I think when the time is right for him he will join the church.

Alberto's situation is complicated.  I think he might move to Viseu.  But it has been a real privilege to see eternal truths change his life.  Sister Warburton is serving in Viseu and I really hope she baptized him.  It's a farfetched dream but it would rock.

We had a cool thing happen this week.  Here's an excerpt from my letter to Pte. Fluckiger:

It's been a good week here in Evora. The most salient thing from the week was probably a series of events that culminated in us catching the vision of what the Lord wants to happen in this area. On Thursday we were fasting (I love fasting. It always brings miracles.) and during our companionship study we were reading something in PMG and it just kind of hit us: we need to focus on HEALING in this branch. We have adjusted our plans for the coming week to include visiting as many of the members of possible (it's not too hard when there are only about 8 active members!) and as many Menos Ativos as possible. We will treat these visits with as much preparation and planning as we do Pesquisador lessons. 

The idea is that as the members learn more about the Atonement of Jesus Christ and are invited and motivated to draw nearer to Him, they will experience personal healing and spiritual growth that will lead to collective healing and spiritual growth in the branch. It is my true desire that this branch can heal and grow -- overcome the negative conflicts of the past; forgive and forget and grow into a more Zion community. We are going to plan a special fireside in January and we're thinking the theme will be ZION. I know from personal experience and from the witness of the spirit that Christ heals us; changes us; lifts us. He can accomplish this healing in the members individually, and between them. Our quest, then, is to work hard to bring them to Him. We earnestly desire to be instruments in His hands. We are going to focus on that -- pray for it, fast for it, and work hard and smart for it. 

The best part of all of this is that it's already begun. The missionaries before us did a great job here, and the members are already much more unified than they used to be. They are great with being friendly to the pesquisadores -- even inviting them to Noite Familiares in their homes weekly. It's fantastic.

---------

We thought Thanksgiving was LAST Thursday.  Oops!  Oh well, we'll get to have the warm happiness of knowing it's Thanksgiving Day AGAIN this week!

I have a copy with me of a poem Beth sent us all a few years ago.  Can I write it to you?

First Sunday, Laie First Ward
Circa 1960
Vernice Wineera

Strains of Hope of Israel weave
around soaring beams
and trail through open windows
drawn by trade winds blowing salt
into sacred wounds of fault.
Then comes a father with his child
cradled as a shepherd holds a lamb,
in man-sized hands
gentled by love and that compassion
for small creatures marvelous
to world-worn eyes.
Prayer laves walls
plastered with ancient paint
and washes over all
in accents of the Saints.
On crowded benches they sit,
sentinels before the glass and plate
and worship, like Lot,
never looking back,
never succumbing to the curious fate,
the salt-sour questioning
of things too wonderful to know.
These are the tasters of bread
fresh on fervent tongues
Of wine turned to water,
kept until last days
herald the marriage feast.
These are the least, the last
who will be first to thirst
the best gifts given free.
The past reverenced in this bread,
these are the listeners of His word
whose souls' eyes do not see
Him dead.
But alive, unbroken,
and adored.


---

Isn't that lovely?  Pants, I have to go.

I love you so much!  Eat lots of pie this week and soak in all that family time!  My regards to the Andrus' and my happinesses to Kurt and Taylor.  

LOVE.

Sister Annie LaMyrl Sandholtz

Monday, November 18, 2013

I am SHINY! And I am SHINY!

Allright peeps.

I am going to send you pictures today.

This week felt like twenty zillion years. I can't believe that Zone Training was only 6 days ago!  We had interviews with President Fluckiger, which was really great.  I think he is pleased with the work we are doing in Evora. 

Want to hear about a crazy rad miracle?!  So you know how Wayne wrote an email to Grandma LaMyrl in response to her question about what Hastening the Work means, and sent the email to all of us?  Well, I loved that email.  At the end of my emailing time last week, when I was wrapping up my email to President Fluckiger and I felt impressed that I should copy and paste some of Wayne's thoughts as a post script to my email to President Fluckiger (Wayne, I hope that is okay with you!  just wait...).  I had no idea why, but I really felt like I should.

So the next day we show up at Zone Training and Pres. Fluckiger has the Zone Leaders pull up a document on the projector for us to read over while we are waiting for the training to start.  The document starts, "I received this letter from one of the Sisters in our mission.  It's from her brother, serving in the Boston Mission (he got that detail wrong...), and (something about Clay Christensen), who was my college roommate."!  And there it is!  Wayne's letter!  FAMOUS!  I guess it made a big impact on him!  So, thanks, Wayne!  Probably all the missionaries in my mission are going to benefit from your well-articulated thoughts.  :)

It was neat to see the fruits of a prompting followed like that.  It made me feel like I'm doing okay out here and God is aware of me.

Most of the things I wrote in my planner to write you about this week are hilarious things that people said. 

You should give me feedback on my letters.  Are they too long?  Too boring?  Too irreverent?  Too preachy?  Not preachy enough?  That being said, I'm still going to share some of these gems with you:

We've been trying to ask good questions to make people think for themselves and make sure people are understanding what we teach.  Some of the highlights from this week:

Us: Jorge, who do you think the Holy Ghost is?
Jorge (he's this tall goofy, jock-type future YM president):  The Holy Ghost is, like, Jesus' bodyguard?
Us:  Well, kinda.  (we teach who the Holy Ghost is)
Jorge: So, YOU'RE my Holy Ghosts!!
Us:  Um  ... no.

I think he was mostly just teasing on that one.  He is also the man behind the subject line of this email.  He is learning English and comes to our English classes that we've started.  He was trying to tell us that he is shy, but he kept saying, loudly, with his hands in the air, smiling, "I am SHINY!"


Us: Who is Jesus Christ to you, Luis?
Luis: (in English.  people like to speak english to us once they know we are American) It's like, bus.  He's the busdriver.

(Couldn't have said it better without the, myself.  That's for you, Dad.)


Us (after teaching VERY simply and directly the role of a prophet):  So, Natalina, what is the role of a prophet?
Gracieta (Natalina's sister):  A man who sins?
WHAT!???  WHERE DID SHE EVEN GET THAT!?


One more.  Yesterday we started practicing some Christmas Carols to sing in the praça with the members.  Americo came in late.  After we finished singing one of the hyms, he motioned towards me in smug pity and said to his wife, "Ela não tem graça"  (She doesn't have grace.  i.e. She just doesn't have a gift for singing).  He thought that me singing the alto part was me doing a really bad job at singing the melody.  Ha!  It was so funny, especially because Monica, the bassoon performance major sitting at the piano, made eye contact with me and we both just laughed silently.  Ha!  So good! 


Okay.  Funny stories are said.  Time for me to tell you about some of the miracles.

We are teaching a man named Alberto.  He has a complicated marriage situation, but he is understanding our message and keeping his commitments!  After we taught him the WOW, he promptly started keeping it.  We asked him to tell us about the blessings he is seeing in his life from keeping this commandment.  He told us about how he is feeling a lot more calm and peaceful, and his worries about how to improve his life have been less overwhelming.  And, you guys, you can really see it in him too. You can see the change that is coming into his life as he invites Christ in.

You reap what you sow.  We are meeting and teaching a lot of young people!  It's a blessing.

Yesterday this lady just SHOWED UP  at church.  She had been contacted by the sisters like 9 weeks ago and is looking for a church.  Rosalina.  It is so humbling for me to see people who are truly seeking truth.  It's so rare.  We are going to meet her again this week.  Will you pray for her?

Natalina prayed about the BOM this week and got an answer!!  She said that she was filled with happiness when she prayed about it and then slept really well.  And, you guys, the members are being SUPERstars.  Nely (this awesome classy Brazilian I love) told us she wanted to invite Natalina to a family night.  That's tonight.  We have plans to mark Natalina this week for baptism on December 1.  Will you pray for her to have courage and faith?  And her family too?

Manuel is moving along, but at his own pace.  I love him so much.  Oh!  Wayne, I'll have him friend you.  He's the bees knees.

Okay fam.  Over and out.  Pictures to follow shortly.

Love you.  GRATEFUL  for you. 

Sister Sandholtz

This is Manuel.  I wish I had more time to tell you all about him.

Me and Sister Gutz

Here I am!! Right here in PORTUGAL! This is the hobbit house!
This is Luis.  He walks the streets of Evora, like us, so we see him a lot.  usually when he sees us he salutes us.

Monday, November 11, 2013

My heart, my heart

Dear Mom, Dad, Wayne, Nate, Ben, Joe, Coby, Grandma LaMyrl, Grandma Bonnie, Sage, and all the rest of you people I love:

I made a list in my planner of all the things I wanted to tell you this week, so I am going to do my best!:

1. lesson with Pedro Pimenta
We teach a lot of people on these freezing cold marble benches in a park near the church - especially single men whose houses we can't enter.  One of them this week was Pedro Pimenta.  He has a really hard time actually following through on ANY compromissos -- reading the BOM and prayer are a struggle, let alone leaving his cigarettes behind and resisting alcohol.  But we had a lesson with him this week that taught ME a lot about the atonement of Jesus Christ.  During the lesson, I felt a lot of love for him, and saw a vision of how much more peaceful and happy his life can/will be when coupled with the uplifting, magnifying power of Christ's grace.  I think we helped him catch that vision a little bit.  Then, we made a specific plan with him of what we can do to help him -- text him daily at nightfall, the time of day when he is most tempted to smoke, for example, and follow up with him about going to the hospital to put himself in touch with the quit-smoking resources there.  He picked a time of day to set aside for scripture reading and prayer.  Even though he didn't actually DO any of these things, it felt like the skeleton of something powerful and I felt like we did our part in helping him understand better the atonement of Jesus Christ, which leads me to ...

2.  teaching to set people free
I had been struggling a bit with a worry about what we do as missionaries -- like, I was feeling worried that we were kind of just trying to force or manipulate people to do these things that correspond with numbers in our planners that supposedly represent effective missionary work.  But I had an epiphany about this a few weeks ago that has changed me.  It's about teaching.  If we truly TEACH people the right way - the way Christ taught people - we are actually, rather than manipulating or forcing them, setting them free; giving them MORE opportunities to exercise their agency because they have deeper understanding of eternal principles.  This is changing the way I teach.  I am feeling more love for people - a true desire to see them grow and progress and feel closer to God.  D&C 50:21-22.

3. true service does not happen in the limelight
In fact, true service happens way out of the limelight.  True service is helping facilitate something and making other people look good.  I am so grateful for parents who really exemplify this.  Heck, parenting in general is this type of service - dedicating your life to the bettering of another's - and I was blessed with some of the best parents there are.  Mom and Dad, I LOVE YOU!

4. rough edges being battered off leads to a new lightness
I feel like this keeps happening to me as a missionary.  Missionary work is such a kick in the face!  You keep discovering things you need to change and work on.  Sometimes I feel like my rough edges are being battered off, and I'm like, "Hey!  This hurts!  That was part of me!!"  But I soon see that life is happier and lighter without that.  God is whittling us all down, getting rid of all our baggage so we can be more aerodynamic, consecrated servants of Him.  Often I feel like I have nothing left to give, but I somehow keep functioning and thereby discover something inside me that I didn't know was there. 

5. Pedro and Monica, Mafalda.  This is hard for me.
We taught this GORGEOUS family this week.  Pedro and Monica are not married but for all purposes are.  They have this 4 year old DARLING curly haired girl named Mafalda.  They are doing an awesome job of raising her in an environment filled with love and selflessness and good values.  You guys, they are just so BEAUTIFUL.  I can't describe it.  They are the type of people that really make the world a better place.  They are EXACTLY who I'd love to teach and integrate into the church to bring healing to this area and get the branch going with FAMILIES.  But.  They have met with the missionaries periodically for about a year, mostly just out of intellectual interest.  They are not really seeking for change.  They have a good life. 

I feel incapable of expressing why, but I was just bowled over by our lesson with them, which ended with a sort of, "we'll stop by sometime in the next month to check in" (and basically see if they are any more interested).  Both Sister Gutz and I were crying after we left their house, not really knowing why.  It was such a complex emotion - I mean, they are so lovely.  So, so lovely.  Like, on one hand I don't want to change anything about their situation, and inviting them to join with this broken, backward, very ill-functioning congregation would be taking a step backward for them!  I'm serious!  But they are exactly the type of people who could make a HUGE difference in this branch, if they only had a desire to build their lives more on Christ and His teachings and love and grace.  But they don't.  Gah, you guys.  I can't describe it.  My heart.

6. Portuguese are a somewhat hardhearted, selfish, faithless people
They just are.  It's okay.  I still love them.

7.  It's all about love -- Elder Yorgason, Palmira
Palmira is this almost immobile old lady in the ward who comes every now and then if we invite her on Saturday and she's feeling well enough.  We passed by this week and she GUSHED to us about how loved she felt when she got a visit from a former Elder Yorgason and his wife.  They stopped by her house during their visit here and talked to her for a while and remembered about her kids and her life and just GAVE HER TIME.  It was the highlight of her week, probably her YEAR.  She felt remembered and loved.  This whole thing is just about LOVE.  That's all that matters. 

8. Wayne: the pope!
I forgot to tell you thank you for that info on the new Pope!  I LOVE HIM!  Knowing more about him has informed some of my conversations with people in the streets, but even more than that, some of the things he said just healed little holes in my own heart.  Taught me more about being a servant of the Lord.  Yeah. Thank you.

9. Manuel came to church, we spoke
We were notified 2 minutes before sacrament meeting started that apparently the 2nd sunday of each month belongs to the missionaries and we had, well, the whole meeting to fill up.  Um....thanks a lot for the pre-notice.  They ended up asking Irmao Rocha, who has the most legit beard you have ever seen, to speak as well, which was a relief.  During the sacrament hymn, MANUEL WALKED IN THE DOOR!  He made it!  WOOOOO!  (Manuel is SO COOL you guys and is truly seeking truth.  I will try to send a picture later today if we stop by the chapel.)  Also Natalina came.  Anyway, Sister Gutz did an awesome job giving a talk in Portuguese and then I went up there and just felt so much love for these people and tried to convey that to them and express some of the things I've been learning in the sermon on the mount.  I really feel like the love I have for this area and these people is a total gift from God.  I love them a lot.

10.  Sister Gutz
Sister Gutz is such a great comp.  She's an awesome friend, sister, and missionary.  She is hardworking and obedient and helps me be a better missionary.  And she's also just tons of FUN.  I am really grateful to be serving with her.  Heavenly Father has given me so many amazing sisters in return for serving Him.  It's such a bounteous blessing. 


More than anything, I love YOU.  I love you!  I am certifiably crazy about you.

Love,
Sister Sandholtz

Monday, November 4, 2013

ÉVORA

Hello beloved people!

You guys.  I LOVE ÉVORA.  I just LOVE it.  It's so EPIC.  Everything about it is epic.  It's a walled city that was constantly being taken over by different kingdoms all through its history.  It has a roman temple (ruins) and this HUGE Cathedral we're going to run to today and a university and Roman aqueducts and tiny, labrynthine cobblestone streets.  The cobblestone here is chunkier and more angular than I've yet seen.  Doesn't it even just sound like a city in a fantasy story?  Évora.  The university students wear these capes/robes, like in Harry Potter. 

It's chilly and dry.  Sweet relief!  I wear tights and scarves every day, and my favorite boots of course. 

On the way here I slept over in Lisbon and got to see Sister Wach!  It was great to see her and she's doing really great.  She's serving in the area of the mission office, which must be a blast, and got to baptize someone she contacted on her first day in Portugal.  :)

Sister Gutzwiller is incredible.  I am so thrilled to be serving with her.  She ran XC for UVU before coming out here, and she's just, like, one of those awesome XC kids with that goofy, smart sense of humor.  You know what I'm talking about.  She's a total doer and is really capable and really pretty.  She looks kind of like Roxy, actually.  She's tiny - like 100 pounds, and love fruits and veggies as much as I do.  :)  She's my third comp to have a ridiculously adorable love story with a guy who is also currently serving a mission.  It's fun.  She's as optimistic as I am and really loves Évora, too.  Basically we just get along great.

Last night solidified our friendship when we were getting ready for bed and I heard Sister Gutz singing, "Holy guacamole!  We've got chips.  So come on take a dip,"
I chimed in enthusiastically, "Cause MY POOL RIPS!"

We about died laughing, and Sister Gutz's mind was completely and literally (*wink) BLOWN that I know The Aquabats.  SO GOOD.

Okay, guys, the church here.  It has just the sort of epic, tragic story you'd expect Évora to have.  The church has been here for a while.  At one point, Évora was growing really fast -- they had 8 missionaries serving here, 90 active members or so, and had bought land to build a big chapel.  But then something happened.  Drama (the church in Portugal has SO MUCH DRAMA and backbiting and gossip and hypocrisy.  It is SO sad) led to lots of disagreements, fights, excommunications, etc., and now we are left with a tiny group of the only saints who survived the whole catastrophe.  There are about 8 active members, and they are all (except one) getting pretty old.  The church needs new life here! 

We are the only missionaries for MILES.  The closest companionship is in Beja, which is actually in the Algarve zone, and is an hour and a half bus ride away.  Our bus ride to Zone Conference this week was 3 hours!  I was worried when I heard how isolated it would be -- I really love having other missionaries nearby -- but it has actually been extremely refreshing.  Like, out here in the middle of nowhere in this beautiful ancient European city, there is no one else to worry about; it's only about us, the Lord, and His sheep.  His approval is the only approval that matters.  That was always true, but it's easier to really understand that here in Évora. 

I have been studying the Sermon on the Mount this week.  Hallelujah!  I chuffing LOVE that stuff.  Jesus uses over and over the pattern of telling the jews of some tradition they hold to (an eye for an eye, don't commit adultery, etc.), then showing them HOW MUCH MORE is available there.  Turn the other cheek!  Go with him twain.  Don't get so bogged down in worrying about what you're going to eat and wear.  This is about your HEARTS, people!  Your hearts. 

I feel like growth is so often incremental on missions.  Like, you get to the start of a new transfer in a new area with a new missionary and you're like, "Wow!  I really did learn how to contact people on the street and I really can do it easily now!"  You just had to be put in a new situation to see how far you'd come.  I'm sure life is like that too.

An excerpt from my letter to Pte. Fluckiger:

"We met with the branch President, Bruno Silva, this week, to unify our vision with his for the missionary work here in Evora.  He is a good man, and is doing his best to help this branch stand on its own feet and grow.  He told us the branch needs more jovens, so we are scouting them out!!

My Miracle of the Week has to do with that, actually.  There is a a 22 year old man named Manuel who has been meeting with the missionaries for a while and at one point was marked for baptism.  We had a powerful lesson about the gospel of Jesus Christ with him this week, and focused on reading, prayer, and baptism.  After the lesson, we felt that something he really needs is social support -- he needs a friend or two to do this with him.  He happens to live in a house with about 7 other friends, but we've never been able to teach him inside the house because they are all men.  We wanted to get some of them involved!  Last night, we passed by, and he told us that one of his friends was there, Marcia (a woman!).  We got to enter the house, and using the techniques we practiced in Zone Meeting just 2 days earlier, we invited all of them to participate in the lesson.  We ended up teaching about the Restoration to FIVE Cabo-Verdian young adults, all together, all friends.  We are praying that they will progress together and support each other in the gospel.  Young adults are just what Evora needs!"

It was SO COOL, you guys.  Chilling with all these rad Cabo Verdian college students -- no, not really chilling.  Talking to them about the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and what that has to do with THEM.  It was the realization of a mission goal I didn't know I had.  Jovens!  Students!  Africans!  My life is so good.

Gah!  I want to tell you about more miracles that happened this week, but my time is running short, and you've already slogged through probably way more than you wanted to. 

Here is my address:

Travessa de Parreira No 19
Èvora 77004-518
Portugal

Oh my gosh, telling you my address reminded me of my HOUSE:  My HOUSE, you guys, is half the reason I love Evora so much.  It's earned the nickname of the Hobbit House because it TOTALLY is.  It has a stone arched ceiling that rains dirt sometimes and this super steep little low ceilinged staircase and the forks have wooden handles and only 3 tines and there is dim, warm lighting.  Sheesh, guys, it's so awesome.

K.  I love you.  I love our Savior.  I love Sister Gutz.  I love being a missionary.  I love Èvora.

Take good care of yourselves and each other.

Yours forever,
Sister Sandholtz

Thursday, October 31, 2013

dreaming of a white christmas...

OU GUYS!

This will be kinda shorter probably.  Sorry, I didn't print you out this week so I spoiled myself and read before writing.  

Um, big, unexpected news:  I'M LEAVING.    I am going to Évora, in the interior of Portugal.  Apparently it's really cold there.  (Snow?  Probably too much to ask for, but that would be fun.)  My comp will be Sister Gutzweiller, who is in her 2nd transfer, so I'll be helping her finish her training.  We both have "tz" in our last names, which means the Portuguese will take one look at them and be like, "Nao consigo dizer isso.... voces sao Alemao?"  (I can't say that... are you German?)  

Okay.  Sad.  Why?  I will MISS Sister Austin. 

 I won't be here for the wedding and baptism of Hermano and Lurdes this weekend, a couple we have been working with all transfer.  I really think one of the reasons I was called here was to help them work out the paperwork headache of having Pte. Fluckiger be approved to perform their wedding.  Lurdes has been coming to church for 10 years, but has been unmarried to Hermano, who used to be the branch president before he had an affair with Lurdes.  It has been such a delight to review all the pre-baptism lessons with her/them.  They are getting married and baptized this weekend and it's going to be lovely.  I am sad to miss it.  But they are focused on the temple in a year. So awesome.   In our last lesson with them we brought them a framed picture of the Madrid Temple and then she went back to her room and pulled out a huger, prettier one with a picture of them in the corner that says "Our goal .. together for eternity!"  It's the first thing she sees every day when she wakes up.  Cool, right?

Camilo!  You guys!  I still feel so good about him  and love him so much even though he missed our appointment this week and didn't come to church.  But his brother wants to hear about the church too.  Eduardo.  I think maybe Sister Shumway (my replacement) will really hit it off with them.  I hope so.  Camilo is really special.  

Man, it is weird to be leaving!  But it feels good and I'm not worried about it.

We spent all of yesterday and some of the night before in the house because I got round two of that awful stomach bug I got in my first area.  Not cool.  But it was good to rest up.  I got to talk to Sister Warburton on the phone (perks of being in the same district as the ZL's -- you get permission to do cheeky things like call an old comp on transfer day.  :)  and it was AMAZING.  That girl is in my heart.  It was SO good to talk to her.

So yeah.  I am leaving the "lonely rocks" (as Wayne called them in one of his letters to me.  So apt.) behind.  I will miss the members here.  Catia and Anna, these AMAZING YW we have here,  Andrea Fonseca, who is my soul-sister com certeza and is going to let me/us stay at her house when I/we visit.  
The two transfers I spent here in Ponta Delgada were a bit of a refiner's fire for me.  But I am learning and growing and understanding the atonement of Jesus Christ in a new dimension -- sometimes we have to drink a little bit of our own "bitter cup" alone in order to understand better who He is and what He did.  (I am quoting Sister Warburton.  She's so WISE.)  I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a missionary!  It is the absolute hardest, craziest, most worth-it thing I have ever done in my life.


Y'all sound great.  I love you!  I write you from the middle of the Atlantic this week; next week from the middle of the continent.  Landlocked!  Wowza.  I fly out tonight.

Pray that I will be able to be a good second trainer to Sister Gutzweiller.  For reals.

Love you so so much!

Annie

Monday, October 21, 2013

Don't move until you see it

Ah, wonderful people!!

I am so blessed by you.

I have so much I want to tell you about this week!  It was possibly the most remarkable week of my mission so far. 

Landmark:  I filled my journal.  I am sad; it was the perfect journal.  Wayne's handwriting on the first page (a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem, of course), little pocket-pages throughout to keep letters and bus tickets and things, tear-out pages.  I am in search of a replacement.  I'll find something good.  But yeah.  It just feels kind of SIGNIFICANT to have filled a whole book with thoughts and things I have learned and experienced.  Life is cool.

Okay.  I'll start with telling you about the divisions we did with the STL's on Wednesday.  I went out with Sister Pieper.  She was comps with Sister Warburton right before Sister Warburton trained me.  Spending a day with her was INCREDIBLE.  She felt like an instant friend.  Watching her teach changed me.  Like, she was a powerful channel of eternal truths personalized for the individuals with whom she was speaking.  It taught me SO MUCH.  And watching her do it for a day was enough to help me start to do it a little better on my own.  It expanded my vision of who I can be as a missionary and how I can teach.  It was exactly what I needed.  She also told me some stories from her time with Sister Warburton that just warmed and lifted me.  One of my favorite things she said was something like, "Holy cow, Sister Sandholtz, you are exactly like Sister Warburton.  The way you hold yourself, how you address people in the street, the way you testify is similar.  Sometimes I have to do a double take to make sure it's not her!"  That just tickled me.  Being compared to Sister Warburton is a huge huge compliment. 

During our division we bumped into Camilo, a man Sister Austin and I had invited to church a while back.  He explained why he couldn't come, and after conversing with him for a little bit he mentioned how he wants to stop smoking.  Sister Pieper told him, "The best time to act is right now," and held out her hand for him to give her his box of cigarettes.  (I was like, "wow!")  He was kinda reticent, but then she said, "we are going to explain a few things and say a prayer, and then I am going to ask for the cigarettes again."  We actually didnt even pray with him, but we got to know him a little better and she had him pick a number between 1 and 10. He picked 3.  Okay, you stay with 3, she said, and he promptly gave her the rest of the box of cigarettes.  "Don't you feel that?,"  she asked, "That liberation you just gave yourself?  Doesn't it feel good?"  This whole story seems almost silly or something but I wish you could have been there to see how truly empowering for him it was.  We set up a return appointment.

So the next morning, Sister Austin and I covered his box of cigarettes with pictures of Christ and filled it with rolled up papers with scriptures on them in place of cigarettes.  We walked the 1.5 hour uphill trek to his house (through my favorite part of our area, Arrifes.  I LOVE IT, it's so pastoral) and found him.  He was there waiting for us.  We pulled out the scripture cigarette box and gave it to him.  He was extremely touched.  He told us he hadn't smoked since the experience with Sister Pieper, and thanked us "from the profundity of [his] heart".  He is SO AWESOME, you guys.  

We taught him about the Restoration, focusing on priesthood power.  It was by far the most clear, powerful, direct first lesson I have ever taught.  He has read the BOM every day since.  He accepted the invitation to be baptized.

That night in acompanimento, we told Elder Herycz he was going to come to church.  He said, "I need to hear you SHOUT that he is coming to church."  Sister Austin had an AMAZING idea (like always) and we put it on speaker phone and both shouted at the top of our lungs, "CAMILO IS COMING TO CHURCH.  EXCLAMATION POINT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"  Which cracked Elder Herycz up, one of my absolute favorite things to do.  

But then there was a HUGE storm on Monday morning and he didn't make it.  But we felt like we needed to get in touch with him so we asked Casal Phippen to give us a ride up to his house this morning.  He was there!  He told us he has been reading.  

"Have you prayed about it yet?"

"No."

"When are you going to say that prayer?"

"Tonight."

"Heavenly Father is going to answer your prayer"

"I know with certainty that He will."

We are going back the day after tomorrow.  Oh my GOSH you guys he is SO COOL.  I feel such a connection with him.  Will you pray for him and us?  I feel so much promise and happiness about him.  I hope I get to stay here in Ponta Delgada to keep teaching him!  

And João.  João is awesome and has so many questions.  He is also a surgeon and coincidentally did surgery this week on Elder Herycz's NASTY ingrown toenail that he ignored for 8 months so it turned into a real beast.  I think it was a small miracle, that extra connection with João.  

The family of women who let us in from the rain is super nice.  We are going back there again tonight.  Such lovely people.

I have been meaning forever to do character sketches of the Elders for you guys.  Elders Herycz and Wilson.  They are simultaneously our priesthood leaders (Zone Leaders, E. Herycz is our District Leader too), our only real peers on this island, our friends, our annoying little brothers, and almost like sons in a way?  It is SO STRANGE but I stinking love them to death all the same.

Elder Wilson is from SLC.  He has these super blue eyes (they are always joking about how they "use the eyes" on people because Portuguese people are fascinated by blue eyes.)  Elder Staples gave him the spirit animal of a Polar Bear, and it's a good one.  Like, kind of ferocious, but in a deep-down playful way that somehow makes it forgivable.  He spent a long time serving in the office and is enjoying the freedom of having a normal area again.  

Elder Herycz is from Gloucester.  His British slang is one of Sister Austin's and my favorite things to imitate.  He has this inexplicable ability to laugh in people's faces and get away with it.  I swear I have no idea how he does it.  Like, Sister Phippen will say something in Portuguese that comes out really funny and he will just start busting up unabashedly and somehow it's, like, not offensive.  It baffles me every time but it's also extremely funny.  Poor guy, his ingrown toenail is pretty messy.

The two of them love chess and made us a chess set out of paper for Sister Austin's birthday.  They are always describing to us their most recent epic chess game, and asking us about ours.  It's been fun.  I haven't played chess for a while.

Do you remember that movie, searching for Bobby Fisher?  Don't move until you see it.

I feel like that happened in Ponta Delgada this transfer.  Heavenly Father has been lovingly setting up the board.  Preparing people, preparing us.  Teaching us how to contact better, how to teach better.  Leading us along, training us.  Giving us little boosts and corrections and instructions.  And this week was, like, power week.  Everything was in place and He saw it and moved it and we got to see the power and foresight of it all.  It was such an incredible week.  We met so many incredible people who seem to have REAL potential.

I am SO grateful to be here.  This calling is so demanding and so hard and so exhausting and so so so worth it.

I love you all way more than I have the power to describe.

Love love love,

Sister Sandholtz

Monday, October 14, 2013

Life Goal Fulfilled: I dreamed in Portuguese

FAMBLY!

Mom, transfers will be October 28th.  I think I will be staying in Ponta Delgada.  But we'll see.  The next ones after that will be December 9th.  Then January 20th, if I am not mistaken.  

The Cobster and Boje are getting so gigantic!  Size 13 boots!?  Holy Cow!  Your camping trip sounds like it was amazing.  Dad:  Narrows, fall 2014.  I am THERE.  I love the little Benism jokes you guys include.  It sounds like Ben is in rare form lately.  :)  I was telling Sister Austin yesterday how one of my favorite things ever is hearing my dad laugh at something one of his kids said.  Imagining Dad cracking up at all Ben's jokes was a happy happy image.  :)

This week was good.

Have I told you all how much I adore fasting?  Every time we do it I feel so much clarity and peace.  

We had another miraculous rainstorm day this week.  We were out, of course, without our rainjackets or umbrella, when it started POURING.  So we hurried to the house of Tania and Gorretti, an aunt and niece we had contacted earlier in the week.  Turns out we had the wrong house (across the street from theirs), but Manuela and her two daughter Beatriz and Carolina let us in, mercifully.  They were super nice.  Manuela's sister owns a Portuguese bakery in San Jose called Padaria Popular, where I am going to take you all next year and impress you by ordering you delicious bread and pasteries in weird Azorean Portuguese that sounds like French!

We conversed with them for a while (visiting again tonight!), then crossed the street to visit the real house of Tania e Goretti.  Goretti is this super light-filled woman who spends all her time taking care of her bedridden father, who has Alzheimers.  Tania is her niece, a university student studying history.  We had a powerful first lesson with them but had to end before explaining the BOM because it was almost 10.  They loaned us an umbrella to get us home in the storm.

I wish you could have seen me and Sister Austin, sprinting up their street-turned-small-river, clinging to their umbrella, giggling like schoolgirls at the adventure of it all.  We were SOAKED head to toe by the time we got inside -- EXACTLY at 10:00 pm.  Woo!  I've had that experience now.

Anyway, the next day we went back and finished the first lesson.  We followed the counsel of our mission leaders, doing "convite do poder", which I have been terrrrrrrrified to use in real life, because it includes asking the investigator, "according to what we have taught, do you think your baptism was valid in the eyes of God?"  I hate it.  Sorry.  Every time we practice it I am cringing inside.  But I also have faith in the inspired counsel of President Fluckiger, and I sustain him.  So we did it.  And guess what?  It turned out GOOD.

Goretti seemd a little protective of her catholic baptism and all the good things she is doing in her life (and rightly so.  She's a super righteous, good, Christlike woman.  Probably way closer to celestial standard than I am.)  But Tania raised her hand and said, "Actually, I think it wasn't valid.  How could a baby understand such a big promise?"  Then Goretti was like, yeah, good point.  (This is why I love to emphasize the importance of baptism being a covenant.)  We are really excited about them.  We think Goretti's dad might have taken a turn for the worse or passed on, because our last appointment with them fell, but I really think that Tania especially has a lot of potential for baptism.  Covenant making!  Which really is the best thing ever.  Will you pray for them?

I have been talking to some people a little more about Pope Francis.  All the Catholics seem to really dig him.  Wayne, could you send me some deets on him so I can have slightly more informed conversations with all these good Catholics?

I read about Christ washing the disciples' feet yesterday.  Ah, that is one of my all time favorite New Testament moments.  I was thinking about what Christ says to Peter:  "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me."  Then, Peter, "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands, and my head."  I was thinking about the beauty of that.  How important it is for us to let Christ wash us.

Also, one of my favorite scriptures that pops into my head sometimes is Mosiah 18:12, "Lord, pour out thy spirit upon thy servant, that [she] may do this work with holiness of heart."  I feel like that verse sums up how I feel about missionary work.  Alma says it right before he baptizes Helam in the waters of Mormon.  That might be my favorite chapter in the book of Mormon.  One of them, for sure.

All right, I gotta go write Pte. Fluckiger.

I have been thinking about you a lot this week.

Oh!  One more thing!  There has been this poem partly stuck in my head for like a month now.  I think it is called "Portrait of my Mother on her Wedding Day".  It includes the phrases:
lillies gathered to her breast
the moment of the wave before it crests
the will to shape a world of her own devising

Could you look for it, Mom/Dad/Wayne, and send me the full version.  It's a really beautiful poem.

Love you so much!  This would be easier if I didn't love you so much.  But it's worth it.  1000 times over.

Annie