Monday, March 31, 2014

Three Stories

Viva meu querido pessoal!:

1. Antonio Nunes; Fé traz Esperança

Many weeks ago, we contacted a woman in the street named Lurdes.  She was very warm and kind, and invited us to pass by her drapery and sewing shop the next week.  We passed by to get to know her, briefly met her husband, left our card with her, but didn't have time to teach a full lesson.  A few weeks later, we found out from a member who lives on that same street, that Lurdes had suddenly passed away the previous night.  

A few days ago we were walking on the street of the drapery shop.  The door was cracked open and we could see Lurdes' husband inside.  We entered the shop and told him, "We heard about what happened ... and wanted to express our condolences..."  He thanked us for our attention and cried in a quiet, dignified way has he told us that it's really hard.  He has a daughter and 2 grandkids.  He reached into a drawer and pulled out our passalong card, which he had found among Lurdes' things and now keeps.  It has a picture of Christ and says "A Fé Traz Esperança" (Faith brings Hope).  

We said little.  Most of the visit was just quiet coexistence -- mutual, unspoken acknowlegement of the sacredness of life and death.  I was so grateful he let us in on that moment of poignant, beautiful grief.  It was so non-dramatic or theatrical, just a simple Portuguese man weeping at the loss of his closest friend.  They were married for 46 years.

He  told us how he has felt that she is near, that she has communicated with him.  We taught a few simple truths about the spirt world.  We asked if we could leave him with a prayer.  I felt like the Spirit really directed that prayer.  It included gratitude for the promise of the resurrection.  What a beautiful, hope-filled promise for each one of us!  We will bring him a Plan of Salvation pamphlet this week.

2. Palmira and the Hand Cream; Things are Just Things

Mom, your birthday packages arrived this week!  We went to visit Palmira one evening, just after picking up one of the packages from the mail.  It had in it some Lime-Ginger hand cream, which Sis Rad, Palmira, and I all experimented at the beginning of our visit.

We soon realized that Palmira was in a really bad mood.  She told us she didn't want to hear any scriptures or prayers, and that she was getting sick of us coming by.  (we know this is not true; we are some of the only people who actually visit her at all...)  We were kind of insulted.  I felt like standing up and being like, "All right Palmira we can stop coming by!!  We have more enjoyable people to spend our time with!!"  But then I realized that my attitude was completely wrong.  This poor woman is alone and afraid.  The very fact that she was rude to us shows that she trusts us -- we are all our worst selves with the people we love the most sometimes.  I prayed in that moment that God would give me some of His love for Palmira.  

We stood up to leave - she didn't have the patience for a visit - and gave her hugs.  I had been debating in my mind the whole time whether or not I should leave her with the Ginger Lime hand cream.  In the end, I realized that she needed a small act of love much more than I needed a little tube of lotion.  We left it with her and told her, "This is something the smell good and bring a little bit of happiness to you!".  I think it really surprised her.  It felt so good to give it to her.

One thing that Heavenly Father is teaching me on my mission is that things are just things.  Things don't matter.  They are only important as symbols of the things that matter more -- love, trust, confidence, nourishment, protection, grace, generosity, abundance, knowledge.  

(This is also apt for me to remember right now, as a torrential rain storm is probably destroying the clothes I hung out on the line this morning.  My favorite skirt was out there.  I hope it's okay!  Ha!)

3. João and Baptism; Don't Move Until You See It Part III - The Spirit Knows EVERYTHING

The miracle of the week was a lesson we had with an investigator named Joao.  He is a 50 year old doctor, very educated and knowledgeable about the Bible.  We have been teaching him weekly since Christmas - he doesn't want pressure but really loves the church.  At the beginning of the week, when we made a list of investigators we could mark for baptism this week, we  felt that Joao was the person we needed to focus on.  The thought came to Sister Radvansky's mind, "You know who and he knows too."  We prepared a specific lesson for him and taught him on Thursday, during the mission fast, with a member, at the church.  We taught dizimo, the last pre-baptism lesson he needs, then focused on each of his duvidas (doubts) about baptism, one by one, calmly and thoroughly, and invited him to be baptized on the 30th.  He was surprised and kept saying, "That's cedo!" (soon), but he also told us that he wants to attend a baptism (he didn't have that desire before) and believes that everything we have taught is true.  He told us he would go home and pray about that date and read the Book of Mormon (for the first time.  He hadn't yet cracked the cover of the keystone to his answer, even though we had invited and encouraged him in each previous lesson to read it!)  In the end, he still felt like the 30th was too soon, but as a result of that lesson and those invitations, he has now read the Book of Mormon (and likes it, of course!), his duvidas are largely resolved, and he is having a "spiritual wrestle with God" (in his words) as he decides whether or not and when he will be baptized.  I feel confident that he will join the church and become a HUGE asset to this branch.  He could for sure be the next President do Ramo.  Yesterday in sacrament meeting he was crying during the hymn "Grandioso És Tu" (How great thou art).  We know he knows it's true.  He just has to figure out that he knows it, then act on it!  One other interesting part of this story is that the first time he ever attended church, when he took the sacrament he felt something really powerful.  It kind of scared him and he resisted it for a while.  I think this is the phenomenon that is still happening within him, which he describes as a "wrestle with God" (citing Jacob's experience in the OT).  But that was a huge testimony builder to me of the power of the sacrament!  It is a true ordinance that Christ has given us to feel His power and His love.  I think Joao has known the church is true ever since that first Sunday.  I know he is one of the people that I had to meet and teach in Evora.  I really hope to see him baptized before I leave Evora, but I trust the Lord's time table completely.  He knows exactly what Evora needs, and when.  

Will you please pray for João, that he can find clarity and peace as he decides to be baptized and join the church!?  (Nate, I loved what you said about the "big guns" being the fam's prayers.  so TRUE!  :)

Well gorgeous people I love you so.  Are you stoked out of your minds for GC?  I am.


Sister Sandholtz

Monday, March 24, 2014

and thus begins the second half of the last transfer of the first year of my mission

That is what my brain said when I woke up this morning.  I love my brain.


I love you.

Where the heck did March go!?

Okay, news.  MADEIRA IS FLIPPIN GORGEOUS.  We LOVED it.  It was such a delightful 3 days.  The sisters there are also amazing.  It was such a good time.  It's extremely mountainous so when you are looking at the city of Funchal from the bus ride in you can basically see the whole thing at once because it's laid out on a gradient.  Houses all piled up on top of each other.  So cool.  The accent is hilarious.  Kind of like a half-Jersey, half-Southern twinge on Portuguese.  They say "Do-moingo" for "Domingo" and their A's almost sound like O's.  

I got to do a division with Sister Carroll of my MTC district and it was so fun to reminisce but also see her as a grown-up, capable, awesome full-fledged missionary speaking great Portuguese.  I also divisioned with Sister Hirschi, from Kansas, who was just a delight.  I learned so much from both of them and their companions, Sister Lofgreen and Sister Brundage.  Such powerful, righteous women!  None of us wanted the division to end.

When we got back we had waiting for us at the airport a freshly rehauled Opel Meriva hatchback.  So fun!  I love driving stick again.  It's completely gutless but we love it anyway and named it Cesar.

We knew that it was crunch-time when we got back to Evora, and the Lord was so merciful, putting extremely elect people in our path as we worked hard and applied everything we had learned.  

Ana is going to be baptized on April 13th without a doubt.  She is doing great.

Luisa is also marked for the 13th.  We created a specific plan to help her stop drinking coffee and stop smoking by that time.  She is excited about it and will conseguir.

The family wasn't able to attend church this week.  :(  We are anxious to have another visit with them.  I feel confident that they will join the church sometime relatively soon, but they are going to take their time to feel right about it.

I want to tell you about some of my favorite moments from the week:

1. Sitting in Manuel's front stairway with Manuel and Antonio Junior, reading the BOM together with them.  Manuel opened up his livro and was like, "Hey, Antonio, I want to show you this cool verse I read yesterday" and proceeded to read about the stripling warriors.  So cool.  He loves the BOM and is learning so much so fast.

2. Watching our investigator, Joao, who is a doctor and 50 and is alcoholic but has been clean for 18 months now, give a presentation to the ward about alcoholism. It was so courageous and he really made himself vulnerable to them and they all felt a connection with him because of it.  It was Nazare and Nely's idea to have him present at the branch RS birthday party, and he chose the subject.  I love Joao so much.  We had a lesson with him this week in which we were like, "So, is there anything we've taught you since we've been meeting with you that you DON'T agree with?!" (We've almost taught him everything) and he was like, "Well, I drink coffee..." and he tried to think of something else and he couldnt.  He loves the church so much. He just doesn't want to turn his back on the catholic church.  He is going to be baptized.  He is so cool. 

3. Watching Americo give Luisa a blessing to help her have the força she need to stop smoking and drinking coffee.  It was such a simple, powerful blessing.  "Trust Heavenly Father.  He loves His children.  Have hope.  Have courage."  I am so delighted with how much my heart has changed in respect to Americo.  When I got here I just thought he was the weird and ridiculous lucky  husband of Nazare, but now I really really love him in his own right.  He is funny and ridiculous but he is also very good and has a really tender side.  

Ah, guys.  I have been really emotional lately because I love this place so much and I know I am not going to be here forever.  Evora is so weird and broken and wonderful and special.  Heavenly Father knew that I needed to come out here away from all the other missionaries and the hubbub so I could learn to really focus on Him and His sheep and His work and His love and His approval.  He is so good.

I'm afraid of how much I love this place.  My heart is so entangled in this place.  I have given so much of myself in Evora and allowed myself to love so deeply. I don't like anticipating having Evora's future out of my control.  But it's all good.  I know Whose control it's in.  The good shepherd.  The Master Sculptor.  The Great Healer.  

It has just been really grand to be in His hand with Evora for these last 5 and some months.

Must go!  

Sorry if this got dramatic.

I love you so completely.


ps an observation that I feel like certainly applies to marriage as well: 

It's interesting - as we've gotten to see and interact with more missionaries I have noticed that the most successful companionships seem to have a few things in common:
1. They have a unified vision about the Lord's work in their area
2. They have a unified desire to work hard and be obedient
3. They live worthily of and follow the Spirit in their work
4. They love each other

The actual goals and plans and day-to-day happenings may look different, and that is good!  It means they are using their brains and hearts to meet the specific needs of their area and do what the Lord needs them to do.  But those four things seems to be present in all of the most successful missionaries I've seen.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Soggy Peach Cracker

Meus Anjos.

Last night we were dinnering on whole wheat crackers and canned peaches, because it was Sunday night and on Sunday night you eat whatever is left in the house.  I dipped one of my crackers into some of the peach syrup.  Sister Rad said, "mmmm....that's going to be a nice soggy peach cracker."  I said, "that sounds like a really lame name for a rapper.

All right people.  I'm going to Madeira today.  My life is awesome.

This week was kind of trying.  Adjusting to a new responsibility which you have to fulfill in an unknown, unfamiliar environment is kind of hard, especially when you still have your own area to take care of and you stupidly decided to save time by skipping pday 3 weeks in a row.  (That was kind of unavoidable but we're never going to do it again.  Pday is important.  We are feeling kind of ragged at this point.)  I had some nice little cry sessions this week.  But deep down I have no doubts whatsoever that everything is totally going to be fine.

I feel like I am being stretched.  Which is actually a really great thing.  Being stretched = growing.  Growing is really important. And beautiful.

The Sisters we are in charge of are amazing missionaries, baptizing families and leading their zones in lessons taught and number of contacts and stuff.  I'm kind of like, "Okay, um, I am a way less awesome missionary than you are, so, um, thanks for letting me hang out with you for 24 hours and learn a lot of cool stuff!"  But I was thinking about this and feeling unqualified for this job and intimidated and then I was like, "Look, self, this whole thing is just about love.  Can you love these Sisters and help them feel Heavenly Father's confidence in them?"  and then I was like, "Yeah.  I can do that."  And then I felt a lot better.

Nate, I LOVED your thoughts about how sin stems from a person's unmet needs, which probably 100% of the time have to do with a lack of love.  That is so so so true.  Sheesh, people, all we need is love!  The Beatles were RIGHT.

Yesterday we tried to mark the family for baptism on the 30th.  I think the kids are all on board, but Joao and Luciana were baptized in a Evangelical church 13 years ago and take the promise they made very seriously. They (especially Joao) think it would be disprespectful to be baptized again. However, we explained a few more things and in the end they committed to pray and really seek the will of Heavenly Father for their family. I really think they will be baptized, just possibly not as soon as we originally had in mind. 4 of the 6 of them came to church yesterday.  

All in all they are just really focused on really finding out what Heavenly Father wants them to do and then doing it, so I think that is actually great reason to rejoice.  They're a cool fam.

Yesterday they offered to give us a ride back to the city and I was like, " nao nao, hoje é o unico dia que têm para estar juntos na cama.... nao!  na casa!"  ("no no no, this is your only day to be all together in the bed!!..... I mean in the house!!")  Whoops.  Ha.

Heavenly Father has been so merciful to us.  We were out of the area for 2 days, and then when we got back it was like He put a lot of people we needed to see in our path, so we didn't have to spend our limited time tracking them down.  

Yesterday we put on a mini fireside for the members about rescuing less active members.  I think everyone got excited and is feeling fired up about it.  We are going to call them to follow up and are expecting big miracles in the next 2 weeks.

Want to hear about a cool tender mercy?  Two days ago, we got a phone call from Pres. Fluckiger.  Sister Rad got all wide-eyed when she saw it was him on the caller ID (it's not every day that the mission president calls!)  Turned out he was calling to ask me if I would live the BYU honor code, so he could send in my eccleisastical endorsement.  When the phone call wrapped up, he was like, "all right, have a good Sunday, love you."

After I hung up I was like, "Sister Rad, President Fluckiger just said 'love you' to me on the phone."
Rad: "I know, I heard!  He never says that!"
Me: (start crying)  (ha, I'm a big baby and really dramatic.)

It was just something so small and simple but it just felt like a vote of confidence, a hug from heaven, a reminder that even though I've been out in the most forgotten corner of the mission map trying to make something good happen in Evora for the last 5 months, I am not forgotten, and I am loved.  That tiny thing lifted me up so much.  God is good.

We made up a fun game to play when you're out walking on a non-busy street.  You take turns saying a name, and the other comp says whether or not they would ever name their kid that name.  For example:

Me:  Tamra
Rad: No! Never!  Do I look like a person who would name my daughter 'Tamra'!?

Rad: Elton
Me: boy or girl?
Rad: either.
Me: well, I'd probably be more likely to do it for a girl, but everyone would think I named her after Elton John.... I don't think I could do it.
Rad:  What if your husband REALLY loved that name though?
Me:  Then maybe I'd consider it a little bit more.

etc, etc.  It's actually really fun.

Okay I have to log off.  I love you so much.

Wayne and Nate, thank you for the packages!  I love the scarf and the Oxnard sweatshirt.  The best part of all was seeing your handwriting.

Christ lives!  He loves us.  He has really cool surprises in store for those who love Him.

Yours, yours,


ps. I am legitimately happy.  Don't worry, Mom.  :)  Love you.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Love from Evora

Hey!  I love you!

I missed communicating with you this week.  It made me realize how much I crave that weekly word vomit to you.  Sheesh, guys, I love you so much.

Can I just tell you that this transfer is going to be CRAZY!????? We will be out of our area a LOT. But we are super excited and know that there are big miracles in store for Evora in the next 5 weeks.

Want to hear about our car?  So ... the car we should be getting is currently in the shop, because the last missionaries who had it drove it for like 6 months or something without coolant, or the AP's totalled it.  (those are two true stories, we just don't know which one is going to be our car.)  They said it will be at least another week until we can go to Lisboa and get it.  So we're pretty much planning on not having it all tranfer long.  Good thing I blew 50 euros on getting a Portuguese driving license and they confiscated my American one!!  hehe jk.  I'm sure it will come in handy at least some time in the next 6 months.  Dad, it is not a Citroen or a Fiat, although the bearded Irmao Rocha has the most gutless, red citroen.  I laughed out loud at your aptness.  I bet he bought it in the era when you were in Spain!!  Ours will be a Meriva van.  Whatever that is.

We'll be going to Setubal this afternoon for a division.  I am going to be with Sister Cardoso, a brand new missionary who is from Portugal.  I am excited; I have never worked with a Portuguesa before!  Then next week we'll be in Madeira from Monday to Wednesday.  (woot!) The following week we'll go to Setubal again and then weeks 5 and 6 of the transfer will be all to ourselves in EVora.  We can already tell the transfer is going to FLY.

Sister Rad and I have such a unified vision about this transfer -- what we want to do and be as STLs, and what we see happening in Evora.  Oh man, you guys.  Fun stuff on the horizon.

The most exciting news is about the Santos Family.  Joao, Luciana, Joshua, Wendel, Karen, and Nicolas.  I have told you about them, right?  They are Brazilian and have their own band.  They are animated and fun and put everyone at ease.  

Way back at the beginning of last transfer, Sister Rad had the idea that we should put on a concert.  We started to plan for it, and in the meanwhile we gained this new desire to teach families.  The day we fasted about that, we met Joao and Luciana and their family and taught them.  We decided the concert would be the perfect way to get them involved with the branch.  So we invited them to play at it, and you guys, it was a total total success.

Yesterday, first of all, the family came to church.  All 6 of them!  That means we had 9 investigators in church, the most I've ever had on my mission by far.  They all seemed to really like it.  Especially Lu and the kids.  Joao is a little harder to read, but I think he also had a good experience.  

Then, that same evening, we did the concert.  It was SO FUN.  It was a big mixture of styles of music.  Mom, you will be pleased to hear that I played my violin.  I performed a movement of a Bach Partita (kind of out of tune.  20 mins of practice time wooo!) and a Jenny Oaks Baker piece.  Sister Rad sang a few chill pop tunes with Joshua on the guitar and me backing up on the violin.  Joshua and Wendel did a handful of numbers (Joshua is a really good guitarrist and singer, Wendel plays drums).  And Manuel did a few raps.  Everybody loved it.  Ate it right up.  We had a lot of members and investigators there.  

While Manuel was performing his rap about Jesus, I sat there watching him and marvelling at how much I have seen him change and grow.  He is truly living the gospel of Jesus Christ, and it has changed and is changing him.  I can't even tell you how much I love Manuel, guys.  There's not space inside me for it.  I am certain he is a large part of why I came on a mission.  I sat there and he was rapping about Jesus and tears were rolling down my cheeks.

Don't worry, I am not in love with Manuel.

He is going to move to Almada soon, because Pte. Silva is helping him (I think) get a job out there.  I am happy about this - I think it will be great for him to be in an area with other young adult mormons.  He says he'll come to evora for church with Pte Silva whenever he comes, but I bet he'll get pretty integrated out there.  Evora will miss him, though.  Poor Nazare and Americo.  And Antonio Junior.

Speaking of whom.  He's doing great.  He blessed the sacrament last week.  the other day he was telling us about how he had gone out with his friends on a weekend for the first time since getting baptized.  He said it was kinda weird -- they were all trying to get him to drink and stuff -- but he said it went okay and he thinks that now that the first time is over they are going to chill out.  He has been inviting friends to come to church and stuff, and keeps commenting how it's really hard because they never want to come.  But we are so so proud of him.  

We miraculously met a friend of his, Andre, who lives on our street.  We talked to him for a while in the street and told Antonio about it, and so did he, and he's probably going to come to chruch next Sunday.  Cool huh?

Anyway.  I got sidetracked.  The family.  We are full of faith that they will be baptized this month.  The 30th is the day we have in mind.  Will you pray for them?  Especially Joao.  If he's in, they're all in.  He told us he had a problem with the idea of anybody putting their hands on his head, because to him that seems like a symbol of someone elses power over him.  We're brainstorming how to teach him in regard to that.  We were thinking of teaching about the priesthood in DC 121.

Most of all, we are super super filled with fire to be exactly obedient and unwearyingly diligent so as to pave a smooth course for all these miracles!
Will you also pray for us to be able to have strength to do those things?

My birthday was lovely.  Nazare hosted a dinner.  It was just me, Rad, Nazare, Americo, Nely, Luisa, Manuel, and Antonio.  Nely gave me a kid's cookbook and Antonio gave me a scarf.  I felt really loved.  It was a great day.

Well, I feel like this is a lot of info and not much, like, commentary or ideas.  But man it feels good to talk to you.

I'm happy.  The sun came out.  There is a different flavor in the air.  It's magic.  THere are families around.

Luisa didn't get baptized yet but she's still doing good.  She just needs some more time to stop smoking.

Sonia and Marina came to the concert!!  That was a great blessing!  They LOVED it and really hit it off with the Santos family, too.  :)  

I've been thinking about that quote by whats his face that is something like, "That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us, not that the nature of the thing itself has changed, but that our capacity to do it has increased."  That is so true.  I have felt that happen gradually but very truly on my mission.  This is why diligence is so so important.

Oh, my dears, I love you.

I hope the sun is shining where you are like it is here.



ps someday remind me to tell you about my birthday excursion in lisbon with the elders.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


you are probably not going to get a long email from me this week.  sorry. :(

it was a great week though.  Sister RAd is REALLY funny when she's sick and on drugs.  I laughed a lot.  

Pray for Joao and Luciana and their family!  They are progressing and we are really really excited about them.   We are putting on a concert at the church next week for them to participate in.

We are staying in Evora and getting a car.

And we get to go visit and do divisions in Setubal and MADEIRA!!!!!!!  SOOO EXCITED.