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?"


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,


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.

Sister Sandholtz

ps.  See you in TWO DAYS!!


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,


ps. names for your prayer roll, Wayne:
Sonia and Marina
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!"


"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,


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.



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: