Tuesday, April 29, 2014

We Are Children Of Glory

Dearest People,

Oh, I love you! Reading your emails this week I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the great blessing and privilege it is to be in your family.  You are so good, light-filled, lovely.  I feel like Heavenly Father is just constantly surrounding me with amazing examples of love and kindness and generosity and gratitude.  He is so full of grace and goodness.  Glory to Him!

Fatima's baptism was amazing.  All three members of the bishopric were present and there was lots of ward support.  She's so happy, even bore her testimony after.

Charles was there and exclaimed, "Next week that's me!!"  Yes!  (His baptism is on Satuday). Charles is funny.  He says Amen after anything he agrees with, and says stuff like "Sou fan de Jesus" (I am a fan of Jesus!).  These two baptisms were seriously just GIVEN to us.  Such miracles.  There are prepared people out there.

Elder Da Veiga-ism of the week.  He randomly starts dishing food onto your plate at Sunday lunch if you're not careful.  He also randomly says simple sentences in English.  For example, "I am a child", "Thank you, teacher," and "Let's go, boys".  So good.  I love him so stinking much.

On our division this week in Maia I was wearing the dress I got at DI that just happens to be a maternity dress and kind of poofs out at the waist and TWO SEPARATE PEOPLE asked me if I was pregnant!  HAHAHAHA.  What the heck, people, I'm a MISSIONARY.  How could I possibly be pregnant!?  Just when I thought my little Evora baby-bump was diminishing, too....

I was reflecting this week about the amazing things the Lord did in Evora while I was there, and I wrote this in my journal, "It's interesting -- I'm sure the amazing growth I saw in Evora had at least something to do with hard work, diligence, obedience, and faith, but all it ever really felt like to me was love.  God-given love is the most powerful thing in the universe.  Love is the most motivating, uplifting, empowering force.  I am so Grateful that Heavenly Father has let me see that so clearly."On these hang all the law and the prophets"  Everything else only points to this.  Loving God and His children.  Showing that love through who we become -- repentant, humble, willing children.   Charity NEVER faileth.  It is always the answer.

Another idea bumping around my brain lately is how kind of sad it is that after a year in the mission the inicial splendor wears off and the thousands of little miracles each week just become almost normal.  Bread and butter.  I guess maybe that is kind of cool, too.  But I want to more consciously notice them and thank God for them.  It reminds me of a poem Mom sent me in the MTC.  "Welcome Morning" by Anne Sexton.  I am only going to include the 2nd and 3rd strophe, but the whole thing is wonderful.

All this is God,
right here in my pea-green house
each morning
and I mean,
though often forget,
to give thanks,
to faint down by the kitchen table
in a prayer of rejoicing
as the holy birds at the kitchen window
peck into their marriage of seeds.

So while I think of it,
le me paint a thank-you on my palm
for this God, this laughter of the morning,
lest it go unspoken.

I too mean to faint down in a prayer of rejoicing and give thanks.  I so often forget or overlook or think I have more important things to worry about.  What is more important than this!?

Oh, family, how I love you.  Will you pray for me and Sister Giberson?  We are giving a training tomorrow at Mission Council in front of ALL the mission leadership on teaching repentance to investigators with addictions.  YIKES.  We're excited.  But your prayers would be appreciated.  :)

I am realizing I haven't told you that much about Sister Giberson.  She's really amazing.  We get along great and I am learning so much from her.  She's such a great missionary, and is just nerdy enough for us to have some really great nerdy jokes.  Love it.

Okay have to jet.  Cuidem-se ta bem?

Love you INFINITY.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Não há vitória sem luta

Dearest, cherished, loveliest,

I loved reading about the events of the week!  Our lives are so full and rich, aren't they?  The family- and spirit-filled week sounds like it was amazing.  I am excited to read the transcription of the funeral!  You're sending it hard copy, right?  

Before I forget!  New address:

Avenida Serpa Pinto 689 5F
Matosinhos 4450-283

Oh, Family, I can't even begin to tell you how wonderful this area is.  On Tuesday night we had Correlation Meeting AND Ward Council and they both not only HAPPENED, but were extremely productive and effective.  I actually had tears come to my eyes.  SO grateful.  It is REALLY nice to be able to basically just do your job -- missionary work -- and have the ward take care of the rest.  Oh, hallelujah!

There are amazing people here whom I already just love.  Let me tell you about a few of them:

Rute.  She is a single mom with 4 kids ages 9 to 16 (ish).  She just moved up here from Setubal.  Even though she's a single working mom, she makes time to teach with us.  She is a strong, light-filled woman who is fighting hard and successfully to create a spirit-filled environment for herself and her kids.  She was sitting in the row in front of me during sacrament meeting and watching her interact with her youngest, Vasco, made me almost cry.

Castro. Irmao Castro is probably about 62 or so.  He is tall for a Portuguese guy, has been a member for a while, and recently was diagnosed with a disease that is deteriorating his ability to use his hands.  Several of his fingers hang limp and useless.  This man is filled with light.  He has taught a few lessons with us this week, and is just kind and good and positive.  I am so touched by his humility and choice to "come what may and love it".  

Fernando.  He's the ward music guy, probably like 55.  He has blue eyes, which are a big deal in Portugal because they make a really interesting combination with the Portuguese skin tone.  When he bent his bald head over the keys to accompany the ward choir, it made me miss you, Dad.

The Elders!  It is SO fun to have a real district again!  And to add to the positiveness, they are both Cabo Verdian!  Elder Da Veiga is HILARIOUS.  He is super skinny (he says it is because he was born during the corn crisis in Cabo Verde and his mom didn't eat enough Cachupa.  This will make anyone who knows Cabo Verdian culture chuckle.) and a real jokester.  There are a select few elders in this mission who for some reason remind me of you, Nate.  I don't know exactly what it is.  But I have a real soft spot in my heart for them.  Elder Da Veiga is one of them.

Elder Fortes is new in the mission and is slightly more soft spoken but also really funny.  Apparently a lot of Portuguese people think he looks like Obama -- so much so that he has been stopped in the street for photos.  Da Veiga said they are going to start charging.  :)  So yesterday during lunch at the members' house we were joking about him being Obama and then when they brought out the desserts, he was like, (totally dead pan, in English) "Yes, We Can."  HAHAHAHA it was so good.  I know they are going to keep us laughing.

Want to hear something funny?  Sometimes when we teach people how to pray, they either don't understand what we say when we tell them to start with "Pai Celestial", or they have really muddly pronunciation, and they start out saying, "Pai Sebastião".  It gets my funny bone every time, hearing someone pray to "Father Sebastian" instead of "Father in Heaven".  Ha!

A cool thing I learned from reading in the Bible in Portuguese is this: the translation when Jesus says "O ye of little faith" in Portuguese is "O vós de pequena fé".  I think it is interesting that the word "pequena" is used, not "pouca".  (Pequena means little like small, pouca means little like not very much).  I really like the idea that our faith not something measurable in quantity -- a substance we are seeking to gather more of -- but rather is measured in size, like a living thing that grows greater and greater.  Perhaps our faith is small, but it can grow.  We can make our faith bigger.

The subject line (there is no victory without a fight) comes from Lidia, a brazilian mom we are teaching.  She has a lot of faith and wants to be baptized.  Will you pray for her and her family?

We are having 2 baptisms this weekend, Charles and Fatima.  Sorry I didn't write about them.  This email is kinda scattered and lame but hey, you win some, you lose some.  :)

I love you so stinking much.


Sister Sandholtz, or, your Annie

Monday, April 14, 2014

(no subject)

Dear Family,

I wish I could be with you this week!  Mom, I loved your email.  please give all of your sisters hugs for me.  What amazing women, Dalton women.  Dad, thank you for your beautiful tribute to Grandma also.  I love that.  

What a humbly exemplary woman, Grandma Bonnie.  So gentle and good and pure.  I just keep thinking how wonderful she must be feeling now, freed from her failing mortal frame, and reunited with Gene.  

I just want to give you all hugs.

It really is strange the way you never know exactly what is going on in-the-moment at home on a mission.  While you were saying goodbye to Grandma Bonnie, I was saying goodbye to all my good dear friends in Evora, totally oblivious of the intense family moments happening half a world away.  

Oh, guys, my last week in Evora was perfect.  Just really perfect.  Remember how when I got to Evora 6 months ago we had about 8-10 active members?  My how things have changed!

We taught lessons in the church with Nazare or Nely to basically all the investigators who had attended church in the last month or so.  I love teaching with those two women!  They are so amazing and tactful and powerful!

Ana got baptized this week.  She chose Manuel to perform the baptism. (!)  So on Saturday night we went over to Manuel's house to teach him how to baptize.  :)  He memorized the prayer in like 5 seconds and kept repeating it over and over to practice, always using the fake name "Ana Sandhaust Hadvansky, tendo sido comissionado por Jesus Cristo eu te batizo ...."  I really really loved hearing him saying it.  Good moments.  I told him he needed to say it slowly so that we could all hear every word.  I wish you could have heard the way he said it.  Manuel just has a cool voice.  Ah, guys.  It was cool.

Yesterday was such a perfect last day in Evora.  Ana's baptism happened before church.  They had to try 3x because her right hand kept not going under the water.  But the third time was great. :)  Her boyfriend Carlos was there and really liked it.  I am hoping he gets taught and baptized soon! 

After the baptism Nazare gave a talk.  Near the end of the talk she said, "I want to say something to all of the people here who haven't yet been baptized. THIS IS THE PATH.  Christ wants all of us to follow His example.  Come, learn, and be baptized."

It was so BOLD and so awesome.  Sister Rad and I were like, "Get it, Nazare!!"  Oh man, I love Nazare so much.

The end of the baptismal service kind of morphed into the beginning of sacrament meeting. People kept showing up and showing up.  Once the testimony meeting was fully underway I counted heads.  We had THIRTY-TWO people in church yesterday!  THIRTY-TWO!!  And THIRTEEN of them were investigators.  !!  

After the closing prayer of sacrament meeting was said, everybody gradually stood up and started chatting with each other and stuff -- like, you know how in normal wards there is always that post-sacrament-meeting buzz?  THAT HAPPENED.  I was doing so many internal fist pumps.  Oh man.  :)  The room was so full of people, being happy and friendly with each other.  We took a picture.  I will try to send it next week.  :)

After church we walked to Nazare's house with Antonio Junior and Manuel to have lunch, as always.  They were asking us questions about missions and temples and stuff.  Oh man, I love those two kids so much.  They went to a stake dance in Lisbon on Friday and LOVED it.  I am so glad they are getting to know some other young people in the church.  They're going to go to the temple in Madrid later this month with a bunch of YSA.  I gave them some really cheapo ties I had bought at Primark and they loved them.

We spent most of the afternoon visiting members, delivering to the sisters in the ward all the colorful scarves I brought on my mission but never wear.  :)  Yeah, kinda fooby I guess, but it had to be.  I didn't want to miss the chance to hug all these people (not the men of course) and tell them how much I love them. 

I was a little worried that I would end up NOT getting transferred and then everybody would be like, "oh..... you're still here....."  haha.

But when Elder Staples called at 9:00ish, we found out Sister Rad would be learning to drive stick shift in Evora, and I would be coming up to ......

Matosinhos!  It's in the Porto Norte Zone.  It's by the coast.  It's gorgeous.  And it's a WARD.  !!!  Woooooooo my first ward!  I am super excited.  I am serving with Sister Giberson, who is really awesome.  

This place is NOTHING like Evora.  And that is good.  :)  It was time for a new adventure.

Tomorrow I will have a real-live district meeting, in the flesh.  Goodbye Skype!!

I suspected I would be coming North next.  Don't know why.

Well, I'ma wrap this up.  Can't wait to tell you about my new place next week.  

My heart and prayers are with you this week, especially Saturday for the funeral.  I will be reflecting and celebrating the beautiful life of my beautiful grandmother this week as I contemplate also the beautiful Easter promise of resurrection.  

He lives!

Let your spirits smile!  Ye are the light of the world.

I love you.


Monday, April 7, 2014

(no subject)

Ah, Fam.

I am a little worried about poor Benny!  He sounds so miserable!  I will certainly pray.  Braces are the WORST.  Remember that phase of life when I had a twin-block?  Ugh.  SO glad that is over.  Orthodontia is the pits.  Please send an update on him next week!  I hope he gets back to being his sunny self soon!  I have been missing him a lot this week.  Miss you, Ben man!

Okay,  I am going to be boring and chronological this week.

Monday.  Fish Spa.  Sister Rad and I went to this pedicure place where you stick your feet in a tank of water and these little tiny fishes eat the dead skin off your feet (or so they say) and it tickles to high heaven.  I was dying.  Then we got pedicures, and the poor lady had probably never seen Sister Missionary feet before.  She was shaving dead skin and callouses off my feet with a pumice stone and it was like grated cheese falling to the floor.  Ew.  TMI?  sorry.

Tuesday.  Mission Counsel.  This one was a lot different from the last, but equally good.  I love seeing the leadership of the mission and how much Pte. Fluckiger really just loves the missionaries and wants all of them to be successful.  

Wednesday.  Zone Meeting in Setubal.  Our last trip out of our area of the transfer!  Woo!  A note about the car -- the best part of driving is the gusto with which Sister Rad fulfills her responsibility as backer-upper.  She waves her arms in big circles and jelly-fish-like motions, enthusiastically making sure I don't dent anything as I back up.  It's so fun.  She loves it so much.

Thursday.  Year mark!!  Can you believe it!?  I have been thinking about what I was doing around a year ago -- before and during the MTC -- and just laughing at how silly I am and what good times I had in the MTC.  Such a magical adventure, missions are.  I feel like I have been changed in such permanent, profound ways.  Yet I am still just weird old me.  Probably actually even weirder.  I am SO GRATEFUL I came.  

Friday.  I don't remember what happened on Friday.

Saturday.  It started out horribly.  We had gotten a hint from someone that I might possibly be staying in Evora for a fifth transfer and it was just a really hard prospect for me.  I'm such an emotional wreck with Evora - love it so much and never want to leave, but also it's just so isolated out here and I have been here so long and I feel like 6 more weeks out here could legitimately make me go insane.  So I had some nice little crying time and stuff, but the day turned around with CONFERECE! We huddled around the computer - Nazare, Manuel, me, Antonio jr, Americo, Ana, a random brazilian investigator named Marcos, and Americo.  Luis showed up near the end, too.  It was just good to be surrounded by people I love for conference.  It was Manuel and Antonio's first one!  they dug it.  

Sunday.  Mostly spent at the church watching conference.  In Portuguese.  I wish I could say I get just as much out of conference in Portuguese as in English, but I don't.  :(  I am stoked to go back and study the talks in English, especially Oaks and Bednar and Monson and Uchtdorf and Eyring.

Joao came to part of a session.  He started to leave during the middle musical number, and I caught him just before he got out the door (still in sight and sound of S. Rad, don't worry ;)  I really loved the conversation we had, it was one of the highlights of my week.  somethinglike:

me: Joao! are you leaving?
Joao: yeah
me: are you tired? (he was dozing off during the session)
Joao: yeah, I am tired
me: Joao, how are you feeling, about, like, everything?
Joao: about the same (meaning, still conflicted)
me: okay.  (pause) how are you feeling about the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints?
Joao: Carinho (affection) (smiling) Lots of carinho.
me: (smiling) me too.  Why?
Joao: I just feel like there are good people here, trying to follow Jesus.
me: Yeah, me too.  I mean, no one is perfect, but the truths restored in the rrestoration really are helpful and important for us in our quest to become liek Christ.
Joao: yeah
me: Are you feeling any desire to, like, act ... on ... anything?
Joao: yeah!
me: for example...
Joao: I want to be a good christian, and do god's will.
me: (smiling) yeah.  me too. (pause)  how are you feeling about the possibility of baptism?
Joao: it's still too soon
me: are you thinking it is something you want to do in the future?
Joao: yes  
me: (inner fist pump, big smile) cool.  Well, keep reading, keep praying.  keep coming to church - 
Joao: can I?
Joao: (smile)
me: - and your process will continue.  You will find direction in your search for truth, and you'll know what you need to do.  And it will be personal, for you, for Joao, and that is how it should be.
Joao: (big smile)

We made an appointment for during the week, shook hands, and he left.  But it just felt like the conversation that needed to happen.  I don't know why I loved that so much, but I did.  It is small moments like that that are my favorite part of being a missionary.  Watching people's hearts change through really tiny things.

This week the APs are coming to Evora to do some filming for a mormon message type video they are making!  they are going to interview Manuel and Antonio and I am hoping Manuel will do his rap for it.  :)

Ana and Luisa are getting baptized this Sunday, by Manuel and Antonio!  We are so excited.  They both need to do the last stop smoking push.  Will you pray for them to succeed?!

Also, we really want to see the Valentim fam get baptized this next transfer in Evora.  Will you continute praying for them with us?

Love you so so so so so so much.



ps.  Wayne: i am SO glad that you also noticed and loved the rendition of Abide with Me in Priesthood sesh.  holy COW I was overcome.  I feel like the MOTAB and other choirs in the church are getting much more progressive in terms of harmony and arrangements.  SO happy about that.  and that BYU I mens choir sang it SO earnestly.  They meant it so bad, you know?  Good stuff.  :)