Thursday, October 31, 2013

dreaming of a white christmas...


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!


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?"


"When are you going to say that prayer?"


"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


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.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Penguins on my body

Dear Family!

It was a good week.  We really truly are seeing miracles every day.  I never know where to start these things.  

How about Conference?  I LOVED it.  Uchtdorf, Christofferson, Holland, and Nelson were my favorites.  My spirit was fist-pumping all the way through the Saturday afternoon session.  Those of you who missed it need to go back and watch it.  It was fantastic.  We were in stitches during the Exlamation Point!! talk.  Did any of you also think it was really funny?  Also very good, but man, his delivery was so ENERGETIC!!  

Guess what happened for the first time in my mission this week?  Someone to whom we gave a passalong card CALLED US this week.  He wanted a Finding Faith in Christ DVD and then he CAME TO CONFERENCE.  Say WHAT!??  Antonio.  We'll see what happens with him.

We are teaching a man named João.  He is black, a doctor, moved here recently from Lisbon, and is seeking truth.  He has all sorts of questions, basically all of which are answered in the Book of Mormon.  It is actually really amazing to me. Last night we were teaching him the Plan of Salvation with Nicole, one of the soon to be missionaries in our branch, and the spirit was SO present.  I felt so keenly that the spirit was elevating my language and helping me really listen to him, then pull all his doubts and questions back,somehow, perfectly, to the plan of salvation.  It was really cool, especially because the Plan of Salvtation has been one of the less comfortable-to-teach lessons for me as of yet.  

Near the end of the lesson (conference was starting in 10 minutes), I felt like I wanted to invite him to come watch it with us, even though we already had and he had turned down the invitation becuase he was WAY tired.  I kind of tossed up a question in my heart to God, like, "should we invite him again?" and I got this feeling of confidence in the spirit, like, "Say whatever you want, little girl, I've got your back."  It was new and cool.  So we invited him again, and he sat there for a second, then stood up and started putting on his shoes and coat.  We will see him again on Tuesday.  Will you pray for him?  And us, that we will be able to help him as Jesus would?

That is something that I have been focusing on this week.  We had some awesome training about street contacting in Zone Meeting, and I have been trying to get Jesus into my street contacts as early as possible.  Telling people that we are His disciples, and that as His representatives, we love them and want to share His message to families, individuals, and all people.  But even more than that I have been trying to look into peoples eyes the way Jesus would.

There is something really powerful that happens when you really look into someone's eyes in love and compassion.  Something changes.  Most notably, I have noticed that I am way more filled with love and genuine desire to help and serve these people.  They, also, seem to open up, and be more receptive to what we say.

It is just such a breathtaking privilege to have the job of telling every person that he or she is not forgotten to God.  I like to measure success that way -- did that person feel God's love as a result of the conversation we just had with her?  No matter what they say or do or are willing to act on, I want them to feel God's love as a result of their interaction with the Mormon missionaries.

Sister Austin and I discovered our companionship theme song.  Last week after I got a blessing from Elder Phippen, Sister Austin hugged me and I said, "You're the best!"  She said, "No, you're the best!"  We discovered later that day that we had both been thinking in our heads at that moment of that 80's song in karate kid, "You're the best, around!"  Do you know what I am talking about?  We sing it all the time now.

We also sing "On my body, penguins on my body" to the rhythm of the African chanting under "The circle of life" from The Lion King, like all the time.  Someone in Sister Austin's family heard it at some Divine comedy skit or something.  SO random.  But when she said it the first time I died laughing.  It never fails to make me laugh.  Ha!

Um, music geek moment:  Did you all HEAR the last song in conference, Abide with Me tis Eventide?  Can we just talk about the fact that it is SO COOL that the MoTab is singing things with a few tasteful, dissonant harmonies in them?  Did you also hear the key change?  SOO not Mack Wilbergy.  I wonder if it was arranged by someone else?

Allrighty.  I'm happy.  I'm growing.  I am realizing for the first real time in my life that CHANGE IS GOOD.  I am so so grateful to be a missionary.  The Azores are beautiful.

You are beautiful.

Yours forever,


P.S.  We hit our 6 month mark this week!  Can't believe it!