Monday, January 27, 2014

Happy Birthday, Boje-face!

My sweets.

Oh, guys.  This week was just lovely.  It's so exhausting to try to boil down all the magic and wonder of a whole WEEK in Evora with Sister Radvansky in the 35 minutes I have left of email time.  I will make a real effort though.

Manuel went home teaching with Americo this week, totally organized between them and not us. Woot!!  He is doing SO great.

Noite Familiar at Nazare's was a pleasure, as always.  Antonio Junior dug it and Sister Rad is loving the members and there was just such a happy, convivial spirit.

I am loving serving with Sister Rad.  She is such a good teacher and it's so fun to serve with someone my age in the mission.  She has a great Portuguese accent that I am hoping to pick up!  She is teaching me so much about FAITH.  She just trusts fiercely in the promises of the Lord.  Like, there's no hemming and hawwing about stuff because she just has such complete faith that the Lord will fulfill his promises to us and to our investigators and recent converts and members.  She often prays that we can continue to work in "the spirit of diligence and obedience" so we can be worthy of the Lord's blessings.  She is exactly what Evora needs right now and Heavenly Father is just good and kind for letting me serve with her.

Antonio Junior is a rock star.  He's so chill and awesome and prepared.  We have taught every single lesson so far with members present, in the church.  On Friday we taught the word of wisdom and the only thing he even uses is coffee, which he said he would switch out for Coca Cola.  He got a twinkle in his eye and laughed, saying, "it's funny, I just got a coffee machine, for Christmas," not in a bitter way at all, just honestly amused at the irony of it.  I like him so much.  We are going to play soccer with him and Manuel today.  They are getting to be friends.  It is so rad!  No longer need we worry that we can't invite young people to church.  We have two really awesome young guys who are going to make any person feel invited and cool. 

Yesterday was just magical.  We had asked the Stake President if he could come out here and do a special fireside sometime, and it ended up being yesterday.  So we had Branch Conference, then a lunch with everybody at the church, then the fireside, about Family History work.  Basically everyone who came was at the church for 6 HOURS yesterday.  And they all seemed to dig it and not get bored.  Blessings.

A lady named Marlene, who has 2 friends in the branch, came.  She has been invited to church lots of times by Nely and Cherry and us, but this was the first time she actually came.  Just to the fireside actually.  But timing is everything.  She LOVED it.  The fireside about Family HIstory just knocked her right out.  AFterwards she raised her hand and said, "I am sad it's over.  I want it to keep going!"  I asked her if we could visit her this week and she was like, "It is I who wants to visit YOU!"  I think this is her moment.

Ulisses and Ana are kind of becoming back-burner investigators.  I still really want them to progress but it just hasn't been connecting.

I wish I had time to tell you about Luis's progress and Luisa, who wants to be baptized.  More on them next week, hopefully!

A cool thing happened last night.  We went to have a lesson with Lina, a convert of 4 months who we visit a lot and is awesome but hasn't been coming much.  We planned really specifically for this lesson.  It was cool.  We didn't end up following the plan exactly, but we both agreed that the effort we had put into planning enabled it to be a really spirit-guided lesson.  We talked about covenants and church and trusting in the Lord's promises, relying on them.  She told us that she honestly doesnt feel good when she doesn't come to church.  At the end of the lesson she looked at us beaming and said, "I promise you, Sisters, that I will come to church every week starting now.  And I promise Heavenly Father."  It was SUCH a cool lesson. 

We were talking afterwards about what we learned:
1. preparation is SO IMPORTANT.  It qualifies us to have the spirit guide us.

2. People, in general, want to do what is right, even when (I daresay especially when) it is hard.  It is hard to get out of bed on Sunday morning.   It is hard to turn the other cheek.  It is hard to resist temptation. But we all crave the satisfaction and peace that comes from doing what we know is right, despite it being the harder option.  People are good.  I truly believe that.  Deep down we all want to follow the higher law Christ established.  We want to walk that path.  We sometimes just have to let that inner thirst reawaken.  We have to water that seed.

3. The best way to handle any situation is with truth and love.  We were trying to decide if we should hint around the subject, or dar faca (give knife, it means like chastise), or what.  But in the end the only way to go about it was with truth and love.  We love you, Lina.  That is why we are here.  You made a covenant with God and will be very much blessed when you make the sacrifices necessary to keep it and renew it each week.  Truth and love.  Direct, simple, and loving.  It is what we all need.  It is the answer to every sticky situation.  Eternal truth and love love love Christlike love.

Well, I love you.  THAT is true.

Yours, yours,


Monday, January 20, 2014

(no subject)

Dearest ones,

2. I am really really happy and grateful today.
3. The Lord is good.

I have been thinking a lot about humility lately.  For the last few months actually.  In October we did a study as a mission about "drawing on the powers of heaven", and the thing that really stuck out to me was that the absolute prerequisite of spiritual power is humility.  As a missionary you have the opportunity to see a lot of humility.  I mean, the people who are willing to meet with a couple of American kids and listen to what they have to say about Jesus are humble people. 

Manuel passed the sacrament yesterday.  We arrived at church and there he was, wearing his pointy dress shoes and a white shirt and tie (given to him by one of the members.  Bless them!) and his blazer, getting all ready to pass the sacrament.  I was so stinking happy.  The night before we had visited him and he had said, "Hey, grande Gutz-why-lay e grande Sand-haust (this is what he calls us. the usage of "grande" here is slang for like, super committed or super motivated or something), what is a covenant?  I mean, I know I made a covenant when I was baptized, but I want to know more about it.  What it is and where it came from.  I have this desire to learn more deeply what it is."  He has been reading the BOM, Bible, and Gospel Principles book.  It has been the most gorgeous thing ever to see the transformation that has gradually taken place in him.  Anyway, the way he asked just touched me so much.  He is so humble.  He has so much desire to do good and be righteous.  We visited him last night for Sister Gutz to say goodbye and it was just the best goodbye ever.  She was thanking him for changing her life and everything and he was just like, "yeah.  Tu estas aqui, em meu coracao.", and thumped his fist on his heart.  ("you are here, in my heart.")

We taught Joao and Luis in the church with Nely about the word of wisdom.  Luis  LOVES coming to church and taking the sacrament.  Joao loves the doctrine and the church but is feeling really uncomfortable about leaving the Catholic church.  He told us before the lesson that he has decided he is going to stay Catholic.  We told him we totally respected his decision.  But then he listened to the whole lesson and at the end committed to stop drinking tea (he's already free of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco) and reduce his coffee intake to 2 cups a day.  Even though he doesnt even want to join the church.  He's just really humble.  Willing to be taught and to act upon true principles.  Luis wants to be baptized I think but is super worried about being able to give up smoking.  Will you pray for him?

Those two things happened in the same day and at the end of it I was almost overcome.  I wanted to cry because my heart just hurt at how humble and willing to change these people are.  It is so so beautiful.  I have been thinking how I want to have humility as a constant focus in my life.  Alma in ch. 32 tells the people how they are blessed because they were compelled to be humble, but it's even better to choose to be humble without being compelled to be.  I want to have that attribute.

Can I tell you about an amazing miracle?  We got a reference this week.  Apparently the Elders in some area were approached by this guy a few weeks back who wanted to learn more about the church because his dad was a member.  They passed on the contact but he never got contacted because the office couldn't locate his city.  So he called or bumped into the Elders again and said, "Hey, how come no one has contacted me yet!??", and they got a more detailed contact from him and turns out he lives in one of the little bairros borders on EVORA.  We met him on Wednesday when the STLs were here and taught him the first lesson with Sonia and Marina.  He's awesome, you guys.  Totally prepared.  He's a mecatronic engineering student, whatever that is, and is just really tranquil.  We taught him the 2nd lesson with nazare on SAturday and then he came to church and loved it and he's coming to Noite Familiar at Nazare's tonight.  I think he is going to be baptized pretty soon.  I would love it if you could pray for him, too.

Marina told us she wants to go on a mission when she's 19.  That was a hugely happy moment.

Saying goodbye to Sister Gutz totally stank.  I took her to the bus station this morning to catch her bus down to the algarve, and the bus took forever to pull out, so we just looked at each other through the bus window, crying.  It was heartwrenching.

But.  Can I tell you about the other huge miracle?  I have been praying all week that Heavenly Father would send me a new comp who would be really good for Evora and who would love Evora and, if possible, that I would get along with, because seeing as Evora is so isolated, it would be realllllly hard to be here with someone you didn't get along with.  yesterday I prayed and did a mini fast for this purpose.

We were outside Manuel's house when the transfer call came.  It was like this:
"Sister Sandholtz, you are staying in Evora, and your comp is going to be..... Sister.... Rad...vanker, or something lik"
"SISTER RADVANSKY!!??"  I almost peed my pants and/or fell over.  I was SO not expecting that, but it's PERFECT.  It's better that perfect, it's merciful and kind.  Heavenly Father is merciful and kind.  And He loves Evora so much.  And He answers our prayers.

Sister Rad and I have followed each other all over the mission.  We both started in the Algarve, then went to the Azores, then went to Evora.  I am SO excited to work with her here.

Okay I have to log off.

I love you so so so so so so so so much.



Monday, January 13, 2014

you're basically half priesthood

Hey Loves.

Our Heavenly Father love us and is merciful and good.  He loves us.

This week was really beautiful.

Manuel got the priesthood yesterday.  At least, I think he did.  Ordinances performed in Evora are always a little questionable, but I am pretty sure Heavenly Father has Manuel's back, even if Irmao Rocha "confirmed" him the priesthood instead of "conferring" it. (?)  Ha! Manuel had his Priesthood interview with Branch President Silva over Skype, then the quorum sustained him.  President Silva told us to have Irmao Rocha do the ordination after church.  "Let him use your little white book," he said, "Just make sure he includes these 3 important parts...the specific wording doesn't have to be exact. I trust you two to oversee this; you're basically half priesthood." Ha! Never heard that one before. Not going to lie, I was pretty flattered when he said that.

Manuel came with us to teach Ana and Ulisses this week. It was awesome. He is doing so great.  And they are an awesome little family. Ana is a super high quality girl -- Ulisses has great taste, and he's super in love with her. Their daughter Beatriz is adorable, too. Will you pray for them?  It has been one of my mission goals to baptize a family, and I think Ana and Ulisses could be the ones.

Miracle:  Manuel is TOTALLY hitting it off with Americo, Nazare's husband. I swear I have no idea how that is possible, but yesterday he came to lunch at their house with us after church and he and Americo were giggling like schoolgirls.  It was super funny. And awesome. Nazare and Americo are becoming like parents to him. It is SO beautiful. For them, and for him. They don't have kids, he doesn't have parents (at least not in Portugal).  GOD IS SO GOOD. I really didn't even see this one coming. Manuel was helping Americo learn to use the internet and it was the funniest thing EVER. 

Sonia and Marina are also doing awesome.  They came to church yesterday (late), but during a lesson we had with them this week Sonia told us she wants to do missionary work with us for a whole afternoon this week. Visit investigators and less active members.  Cool, right!?  We're stoked about it; Wednesday's going to rock.  STL's here PLUS Sonia and Marina.  Pray they'll have good experiences with us!

Sister Gutz and I are afraid this is our last week together.  Next week I'll give you the news on transfers. Most likely scenario is that Sister Gutz leaves the nest and I get a new comp. I'm praying for someone who can really love Evora and be great for it. Evora is SO bizarre; a lot of the missionaries who used to serve here hated it.  But it's so great too!  It needs missionaries who love it.  I am going to miss Sister Gutz so so bad. I kind of feel bad that my next comp has to follow her.

We are learning to knit from this less active member named Palmira.  We're loving it, she's loving it. Everybody wins.

This week an eccentric artist who lives in Evora and once before told me my accent hurt his ears (grrrr!) called out to us as we walked past his table at an outdoor cafe. He looked at me and proclaimed, "You are more natural than last time. You are superb this way.  You are WILD. I like it!"

Ha! We have pretty much no idea what in the world he was talking about, but it was extremely funny and we've been parroting it all week. It sounds like it was creepy, but it wasn't.  Just eccentric. Ha!

Our Heavenly Father loves us. He is kind and good and wise. He knows what we need and will lead us to still waters. He never forgets us. He blesses us.

I'm just super grateful.  I've felt really cradled in His hand lately.

Love you.  Hugely.

Sister Sandholtz

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Fight like Dragons, Serve like Dragons

That quote was on a tiny slip of paper stuck into a mini hymnbook some elder left in the hobbit house who knows how long ago.  It has become Sister Gutz' and my mantra.

As Sister Gutz said one day, "The hobbit hole is a fortress.  Of mystery and wonder."  It really is.


FAMILY!  I love you guys!

Can we all just freak out for a second about how awesome our parents are?  Our 31-years-married parents!  You two are the greatest.  I am SO glad you got married and I got to benefit from that.  LOVE YOU.  Happy Anniversary.

I also meant to say thank you for the gifts you sent!  Benny, I wear that super cute, super warm scarf pretty much every day.  It matches all of my clothes,and it's so soft and warm!  Thank you!  I'm excited to start writing in the missionary journal, Mom, and I will put the Micron pens to good use!  :)


We made a breakthrough this week.  Ever since I got to Evora Sister Gutz and I have noticed that when I swallow -- like, drinking water especially -- it's SUPER LOUD.  We have laughed about it a lot.  One time at a Family Night at Nely's it was totally silent and then I gulped SO LOUD and then Sister Gutz and I totally lost it and all the members were like, "What's up with these crazies?!"

Anyway.  One day this week I was drinking some water before we left the house and to be funny I tried to make it especially loud.  I grinned at Sister Gutz, and she was like, "what?", and I was like, "didn't you hear that?", and she was like, "try it again", and, long story short, it turns out that if I TRY to gulp loud it's actually quieter.  Ha! 

Sorry I just spent two paragraphs telling you about the volume of my gulping.


Manuel got confirmed yesterday!  Woot!  I really like the way our Branch President talks to him and interacts with him.  Mom, I know your fast for him blessed him!  Some cool moments with him this week.  He expressed to us how now that he's baptized he's feeling conflicted about one of his raps.  It talks and smoking and a kind of delinquent lifestyle that he feels like he can no longer represent.  I was super proud of him for coming to that conclusion. 

We told him that having the priesthood will help him be a good dad.  He was like, "Yeah.  A good dad.  I really want to be that."

He's a good kid.


Pantufo followed us through a RAINSTORM  and into a GROCERY STORE this week.  He loves us so much!  We went into the store and then had to go straight out the exit because he had come in behind us.  Everyone was watching and we were like, "it's not our dog!!".  So we then re-entered, and stood in the automatic sliding doorway, trying to get the automatic door to somehow slide closed, leaving him on the other side.  Ha!  Eventually an employee came and helped us.  It was a big scene.  But kinda fun.

The next day we got some neighborhood kids to play with him and distract him while we booked it out of there. Ha!  I was thinking that some people probably feel about missionaries like we feel about Pantufo.  He's cute and he really loves us, but it'd be nice if he'd leave us alone sometimes. 


We were both kinda sick this week.  On Thurs. morning I woke up and immediately started crying.  Ha!  Poor Sister Gutz didn't know what to do.  I was just so so tired and sick, but still capable of getting up, so I felt like I had to.  She wisely made me go back to sleep.  I slept through most of our studies, which helped.  Being a missionary is so crazy sometimes!  In the future I am going to LOVE being able to sleep when I am sick.  It's such a luxury.


I did Grandpa Gene's three questions.

1. What am I proud of from 2013?

This one's easy.  Serving a mission!  Hardest, coolest thing ever. 

2. What will I change about myself in 2014?

I am going to continue increasing my ability to worry less.  I think this is something that I have really started to learn as a missionary.  Let life be wonderful!  Trust in God.  As Sister Warburton always said, "He's got it sorted."  He does.

3.  What will I do in 2014 no matter what?

I will improve my Portuguese accent and grammar!  I also REALLY want to be "gundersonned" in 2014.  Wayne/Nate, HINT HINT.  And I want to take Nelma to the temple.

It's going to be an awesome year.


Well, I love you.  I'm pretty sure my actual zipcode is 7000-518.  I don't know where that original one even came from.  But things are getting here, so no worries!

I miss you a lot.  Thanks for your beautiful emails each week!

love LOVE love love love LOVE love LOVEY LOVEY love love loooooove.


ps. big congrats to Bri and Lindsay!!  Everyone's getting MARRIED!!  Wooo!!!