Monday, June 23, 2014


My dear cranties,

Cranties is the name of a breakfast cereal in Portugal.  The names of the breakfast cereals here never cease to delight me.  Sister Giberson and I have enjoyed finding every reason to shout the word "CRANTIES!" whenever occasion permits.  We have such a good life.

We have also been on a raging pineapple kick.  This week and last, we bought 4 pineapples and consumed them voraciously.  One of the best things about summer is produce.  I love my life.

I loved loved loved your emails this week (and every week, let's face it).  We just live the most abundantly blessed existence.  Mom and Dad, I am SO thrilled about your trip.  I want to meet Ami and her husband!  And I want to go to Greece....

What sobering, tragic news about Bonnie!  My heart just hurts and aches.  The scripture that came to my mind was Job 1:21 - The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.  Some things are just so inexplicable.  All we can really do is keep calm and carry on, trusting that everything will work together for our good, even in the most seemingly cruel and undeserved moments of darkness.  Certainly these next months will be beautiful, close, precious family moments for the Barnetts and all of us.

I read something interesting in PMG about the atonement this morning.  (I love personal study so so so so so much.  I am so grateful.)  It was in the section of the Plan of Salvation lesson about Judgment.  It said that the only ones who will inherit Eternal Life will be those who made themselves free of sin and suffering through the atonement of Jesus Christ.  

I LOVE that.  The atonement not only frees us from sin (redeems us), but also from suffering (empowers us).  Or rather, when we have deep-rooted faith in Jesus Christ and the power of His Atonement, nothing can shake us.  We are serene and grounded even through the most harrowing trials because we trust so infinitely and completely in Him.  We rejoice in the gift and the Giver, through everything He gives us, even if it seems at the moment to be more of a curse than a blessing.

I am talking as if I know anything about this -- of course in the midst of these things we just feel like we are about to fall apart.  But I truly believe that every one of these experiences is given to bless us.

My prayers for Bonnie and Adam and their kids and all the Barnetts will be in full gear. 

This week was lovely.

Irene didn't get baptized.  She was SOOOO close. But I still love her complicated guts and she's still teaching me so much.  When we taught her the word of wisdom she told us she drinks coffee daily and that she WON'T quit.  (she is the most stubborn person I know).  But then she quit.  The next two days in a row we didn't even ask about coffee and she slipped in hints with a twinkly eye that she hadn't drunk any.  I'm pretty sure she'll never drink coffee again.  

As for baptism, we'll see.  She told us if it weren't for her pain-filled, infection-filled legs, she would have been baptized on Saturday.  But then like 2 seconds later she was ranting about how she doesn't like this church and doesn't believe in it and yadayadayada.  She's a confusing lady.  But I just love her so much.  Teaching her has made me realize (again) how much I truly truly believe all this is true.  Her reluctance to accept the overwhelmingly huge blessings of the gospel and the ward family that is literally and figuratively ready to accept her with open arms just seems so STUPID.  I mean that in a way that is completely un-belittling to her -- I understand that there is surely a longer story to this whole issue than I perceive -- but I am just trying to emphasize how clear it has become to me that the gospel simply blesses our lives and makes us happier.

I choose it.  And I am blessed again and again by that choice.

And I rejoice in the relationship and friendship we have with Irene, whether or not she gets baptized in the short run.  She has blessed my life.

Fabrice is still going strong, Armando is running away from us but I am confident it's nor permanent, Dalila and crew didn't come to church again but I believe they will someday soon.  We are struggling to get many people in church!  Will you pray we can be creative and have more success in that arena?

Sister Giberson had her golden birthday on the 21st, it was great fun.  We fasted.  ha!  She was such a good sport when the bishop announced we would be doing a ward fast on her birthday.  We managed to celebrate a lot anyway.  :)

Dad, I gave your BOM with the dedicatory in it to an ELECT lady I refer to as Elisabete 5 (we are, or have been, teaching 5 women named Elisabete, so I number them).  She LOVED it.  She was freaking out at how great it was and was SO grateful.  Thank you for the perfect dedicatory.  ;)

A cool miracle from this week -- one morning we were out working and I felt like we ought to stop and pray.  I honestly was kind of in robot mode that morning.  So we prayed.  After the prayer we stood there with eyes closed for a second and I silently asked God to help me WANT to be there in that moment.  I opened my eyes and took a deep breath and looked across the street at the old, disintegrating, Portuguese, stone building with ivy growing all over it and I thought, "I live in Portugal!", and I was happy.

I felt like there was someone nearby that we needed to meet, so we started knocking a predio on the other side of the street.  Before long a guy in a suit walked by who looked and reminded me of Charles, but we were in the middle of talking to someone's doorbell/phone thing.   The man stopped, and then turned around and contacted US.  

He is a brazilian businessman named Elias who read a book by a brazilian mormon billionaire and for the last 2 weeks has been LOOKING for mormon missionaries to talk to.  MIRACLE!!!!? Sooooo yes.

We've taught him a couple lessons as of yet and he really reminds us of Charles.  So fun.  I don't think he's going to jump into the baptism font quite like Charles did, but he's got LOADS of potential.  I hope he comes to church this week!

Portuguese people speak in a way that, when translated to English, seems comically formal.  For example, Angela made the following coments this week:

"Fatima, the Lord Bishop is King!  You can't say no to the Lord Bishop!"

Hahaha!  and,

"That dessert is the divine food of God!"

So classic.  We love translating things in our brains into English.  We walk around saying, "Good afternoon, brother!", and stuff like that.  It's a good life.

A very common good-bye in Portugal is, "Little kisses!"

Ah, loves, you are exquisite.  Have a happy week and lift each other up and praise Him and be excelent to those around you.  You are such a light.

Yours, yours,


Ps.  quote I loved from Rosemary Wixom:  As individuals, we are strong.  Together with God, we are unstoppable.  


Little kisses,


Thursday, June 19, 2014

To the Chief Musician, a Psalm of David

My jewels,
I happened upon this treasure during personal study this week.  Psalm 40:
 waited patiently for the Lordand he inclined unto me, andheard my cry.
 He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miryclay, and set my feet upon rockand established my goings.
 And he hath put new song in my mouth, even praise unto ourGod: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord.
 Blessed is that man that maketh the Lord his trust, andrespecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.
 Many, Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thouhast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot bereckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak ofthem, they are more than can be numbered.
 Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desiremine ears hast thouopened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required.
 Then said I, Lo, come: in the volume of the book it is written ofme,
 delight to do thy willmy God: yea, thy law is within myheart.
 have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, Ihave not refrained my lips, Lordthou knowest.
 10 have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; havedeclared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: have not concealedthy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation.
 11 Withhold not thou thy tender mercies from me, Lordlet thylovingkindness and thy truth continually preserve me.
 12 For innumerable evils have compassed me about: mineiniquities have taken hold upon me, so that am not able to lookup; they are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heartfaileth me.
 13 Be pleased, Lordto deliver me: Lordmake haste to helpme.
 14 Let them be ashamed and confounded together that seek aftermy soul to destroy it; let them be driven backward and put toshame that wish me evil.
 15 Let them be desolate for reward of their shame that say untome, Aha, aha.
 16 Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: let suchas love thy salvation say continually, The Lord be magnified.
 17 But am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me: thouart my help and my deliverer; make no tarryingmy God.
Isn't that just lovely? Oh, family, how I wish you could have lived this week with me!  It was so beautiful.  So many miracles, with investigators and within my own heart.  

Our mission is doing a 40-day-fast thing.  One of the things I committed to do was to actually keep the rule about only speaking Portuguese when we are in the street or in public.  This was previously a mission rule that I have kept only 90%, and I felt that I needed to make that last little sacrifice and consecrate the last 10%.  It has felt really good to know that I am truly living this precept, and since I started doing this (3 weeks ago), I have had several people tell me, "wow, your Portuguese is good!".  The other week someone asked me, "Are you Portuguese?"  (YES!!!  I had only said like 2 words to him, and once I said more he was like, oh, yeah, you're not, but I will take what I can get!  I can say at least two words in a truly Portuguese accent!!)  Anyway, I feel like there is a correlation here.  I have been blessed as I have tried to be more consecrated.  The Lord is good.

I have been studying my personal theme of the transfer: "exact obedience, great faith, filled with love". I found a scripture that I LOVE that has to do with obedience. John 8:29: "And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him." We can only have the presence of our Father with us when we are doing the things that please Him. I desire to "do always the things that please Him". It gave new light and purpose to my 40-day fast. I am seeing myself grow and change.  It's grand.

I also read an inspiring talk, sent to me by Sister Giberson, called "The Fourth Missionary", given by a mission president named Lawrence E. Corbridge. It reminded me to not just do all the things we are supposed to do (and all the things on my 40 day fast list), but do them BECAUSE I WANT TO SERVE THE LORD. It was such a relief to remember that I am here not out of duty, but because I love the Lord, want to serve Him, and want to be changed by Him to become like Him. Since I realized that (during comp study on Thursday morning, when I had a nice little cathartic breakdown), everything has changed. The things I do, I suppose, are about the same, but HOW I FEEL is completely different. I am way way happier than I have been in the last few weeks. Inner complaining and self-pity have vanished and turned into gratitude. We have seen miracles. I am so so grateful.

Okay, investigators:

Irene. She had been marked for baptism for the 14th, but it didn't go through. This week we passed by and did service for her -- cleaned her house and sang hymns for her. Then, on Sunday, the Bishop visited her with a rapaz, Ricardo, from our ward. (Ricardo has been teaching her with us and she gets along great with him.) We couldn't visit with them, because our Sunday afternoon was booked with important compromissos. So they went alone, and it turns out the Lord has a specific purpose for that: they marked her for baptism this Saturday!! Talk about AMAZING ward leadership!! We had earlier that day had a correlation meeting in which the Bishop proposed a joint fast of all the ward missionaries and full time missionaries that we can baptize people in June. During the same meeting he gave us a LONG list of potential investigators who are family members of people in the ward. We are SO grateful and excited! This ward is INCREDIBLE.

Fabrice.  He has the most cool factor of pretty much any person in existence, becuase he totally doesn't try to.  He's 20, from Cameroon, speaks French (but it's african french, which means it is completely unpretentious and calming and beautiful.  every time he reads scriptures out loud from Le Livre de Mormon I just about die of how awesome it is.), plays soccer here for a team in Leca (the elder's area), and is simply, deeply good.  He has no desire to "do bad".  We invited him to be baptized on the 21 but he said that day won't work, when is the next day I could be baptized?  So we are planning for the 28th.  But we want to have a support system for him here (he doesn't speak Portuguese) so we're going to try to ...... baptize all his friends!  Will you pray for his friend, who is named Imma Mimba (!).  We still haven't met him.

Elisabete and her daughters ALMOST came to church yesterday.  Bummer.  

Lidia still hasn't come either. :(  But it was her husband, Sergio, who thinks maybe Jesus was an alien, Wayne.  He's a cool dude.  

Dalila (another radsauce name) and Cristina and Fernanda are women we contacted with Angela at the ward proselyting activity a couple weeks ago.  I thought they had 0 potential (where is my faith!??), so when we knocked on Dalila's door the next week for our return appointment I was not surprised when no one answered.  So we called her up and she was like, "I am almost there!  The others are coming too!", and before we know it we are sitting in her living room with the three of them and Dalila's daugher, having one of the best first lessons ever.  Did I already tell you this story?  Anyway, they didn't come to church :( but they had a good excuse.  We passed the house of Fernanda yesteday and met her husband, who, by chance, has already been reading the BOM.  Supes de cool!!  I think there are miracles to come in this thread of the tapestry. :)

I just got a GREAT email from Sister Rad talking about awesome miracles in Evora!  They baptized a rad guy who is best friends now with Antonio Jr.  Marina is going to EFY!  Sonia is giving them references.   Ana is loving the BOM and her testimony is strong.  Manuel (as far as I know) is still stoked about a mission.  Gahhhhh I am so proud of Evora.  Real growth!!!   Yay yay yay.

Will you pray for these people and that our ward can baptize at least 4 people in June?  I will be praying for Ben and Joe and y'all to be safe and happy during the trips!  Have a blast!

Thanks for hosting the Gibersons!  

In parting, 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17.  I love you.  

 16 Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father,which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace,
 17 Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.
Love, Annie

Monday, June 9, 2014

A person who looks for food in the trash ...

Every single week when I read Ben's email I want to copy a sentence from it to use as my subject line.  Every week.  This week I wanted to say "Shine to a great life."  They are just always so pithy and Bennish and wonderful.

Dearest friends.

My life is very good.  I had some cool reflection moments during personal study this week, thinking about my whole mission until now and how much it has changed and shaped me and broken and healed me and wiped me out and lifted me up and battered and blessed me.

I read my journal of what was happening a little more than a year ago -- I arrived into the loving care of the trainer who changed my life and taught me how to let life be wonderful and take care of people.  I met amazing Nelma and walked around the streets of the Algarve, understanding little Portuguese and splashing in the incredible wonder of tasting a life more consecrated than ever before.

I read some of my journal entries from last September, when I was feeling really worried and blue on an island in the middle of the Atlantic, and I cried with gratitude at what all of you did to send me love.  I received a letter from Nate and a letter from Wayne --written on the same day -- that were both sunrays of truth and love in envelopes that lifted me and gave me strength to carry on.  Mom sent a package, Heather sent an email I printed and still have, you all prayed and I FELT those prayers.  Heavenly Father, too, of course, gave me moment after moment of little kindnesses, strengthening and leading me along.

Fast forward several months -- I found myself in the middle of my stay in unexpected Evora, astonished and grateful at how incredibly strong and okay I felt.  Evora was ripe with miracles and God's love.  I met some of my all time favorite people there, and saw God change hearts, including mine.  Heavenly Father gave me two true sisters, friends that feel more like family, to serve with in that holy place.  I cannot think or speak of Evora without my throat tightening in profound gratitude and awe.  There are not words for these things.

And now here I am in lovely, promising Matosinhos.  Still learning, still with many miracles to swim in and look for each day.  Still having obstacles in the road and challenges to overcome and still meeting people who are changing my life completely.  It is just too sweet, too exquisite, too hard, too good for words.  Sorry I'm even trying.

Ah!  Guys! Here I am being all wishy washy and nostalgic and because of a problem at the email place I have pretty much no more time.  Pants.  

I wanted to tell you about Fabrice, and Dalila, Cristina, and Fernanda, and Sergio thinking Jesus was maybe an alien, and giving Mom's testimony in the BOM to Elisabete, and Irene feeding us dinner and then getting sick so she couldn't come to church, and Armando's phone conversation with us that was delightful and hilarious.  

We missionaries are heading up a scavenger hunt at the ward picnic tomorrow and when we tried to translate the word scavenger so that the committee would know what we were talking about, the translation was "a person who looks for food in the trash,  or an animal that eats the flesh of dead animals"  HA.  We were like, okay, um....

I made an AMAZING chocolate mousse this week.  Nazare status.  I will make it for you in less than 3 months.

Sheesh!  Have to go.  Sorry for the lameness of this email.

I love you.



Monday, June 2, 2014

The Ten Commandments According to Angela

Hey my favorite people,

This week was complicated because I got hit with THE ABSOLUTE WORST AND WEIRDEST flu virus of all time.  Apparently it's hit about half our zone.  I've been out of commission since Thursday, and each day my symptoms morph into something new and horrible, but don't improve.  SGibs has been a real champ and compassionate friend, taking care of me.  This morning she woke up to me crying and made me lemon tea at 6:30 a.m. Bless her.  

However, notwithstanding the bizarre health lameness, there were a lot of awesome things that happened this week.  I want to tell you about two lessons in particular.

The first was with Armando.  He came into the church in a flurry and we sat down in the classroom with Angela and Fatima and Amandio (recent converts who often teach/learn with us) and he was smiling real big and he looked at sister giberson and said, "I already know what you are going to say.  You are going to start out with, how was your week?, and I am telling you right now that it is AWFUL." -- He´s still grinning .. "it is totally AWFUL and nothing has been going right.  But something cool happened on Monday.  I sent off a whole bunch of texts to clients who need to pay me, and NONE of them responded.  Normally I can read the BOM when I am in a good mood, but when I am down, forget it!  But this day, I had TV, I had food, I had movies, I had other books, and I was feeling horrible, and for some reason I decided instead to pick up and start reading the Book of Mormon.  I read for four hours straight -- all of first and second Nephi -- and exactly when I finished second Nephi, my phone buzzed, and a client responded to me!  I was astonished.  I thought to myself, "I ought to read this book more often!" (we were like, yeah!! you should!!)

So he has received an answer that the Book of Mormon is true.  Yeah!!  Heavenly Father is so cool.

He continued, "You also asked me to pray about baptism.  One day I did.  Like, I didn't form any words with my lips, it was almost only a half-thought, but IMMEDIATELY something good happened."

He wants to be baptized!! He is no longer talking like "if", but now "when"!  He is so much more ready than he realizes, too.  We are full of faith that he can soooo be baptized this transfer.  July 5th is the last Saturday of the transfer.  We are going to present that date to him this week.  !!  He still needs to stop smoking and drinking and start living the law of chastity, but once a person has a desire to be baptized, nothing can stop them!  

Will you pray for Armando?

Oh, guys, I wish you could have seen the new light in his countenance.  He was going off about how his week was going horribly but he was SMILING and his whole countenance was changed and more full of light.  He has already changed so so much since we met him.  

THE GOSPEL IS TRUE.  Gah!  It is so cool to see it start to be delicious to others.  

Ha!  At the end of the lesson he was going off about how we are just so great.  We are never irritable or depressed, we are generous and other centered and don't think about ourselves, etc, then he's like, "and you are always wearing the same clothes over and over again and you don't worry about your shoes."

I looked down at our shoes.  Both of us were wearing HORRENDOUS sister misisonary shoes.  Like, Shaun would literally have a heart attack.  Perhaps Armando would be less impressed if he knew that we actually LOVE wearing adorable shoes and having more than 5 outfits.  But lucky for us, those were strong points for him.  :)  HA.

Oh, and one more thing.  I wish you could hear him pray.  He VOLUNTEERED to say the closing prayer.  One of my favorite things EVER about missionary work is hearing people pray who haven't yet gotten really comfortable with prayer.  It is so beautiful.  Their prayers are so unadorned and childlike and real.  It always makes me want to pray more like they do.

Armando closed his eyes and folded his arms and said, "Heavenly Father.  I want you to know that I believe in you.  More every day.  I know that you are good.  You are extremely good. ..."  It was slow and purposeful and real and uncomfortable and sincere and just exquisite.  

I am so glad for Armando.


The other awesome lesson was with Irene.  Irene is my FAVORITE.  She is this 75ish Portuguese fire cracker with so much spunk.  We met her in the street with Ricardo Melo (Ricardo Melo is this 16 year old LEGEND in our ward who joined the church a couple years ago and is amazing.  He sometimes teaches with us.  Especially Irene, because she loves him.  Yesterday at church she was talking to the RS pres about how she is "crazy about that kid!  I adore him, believe it!!"  Anyway.) and he recognized her because the elders had been teaching her a while back.  We invited her to church and she was like "NO" and we were like "why not?" and whe was like "because NO" and we set up an apt with her.

We taught her with Ricardo that week and she was constantly joking around and winking at all of us but you can just tell she has a desire to be blessed by the gospel.  On Thursday we missed an apt with her because I was sick but we managed to get out of the house long enough to teach her on Saturday.  Ricardo couldn't come, so we brought Angela. (Angela is the recent convert at whose house I called you for mothers day.  She is a RIOT.  She is always talking and saying "for the love of God!!" after like every sentence and is ON FIRE for the gospel.  She's so great.  I thought she and Irene would get along, even though they both have huge personalities.  :)

Angela was great with Irene.  She bore powerful testimony and went off about how greatly the gospel has blessed her life ever since she was baptized in February and how she loves living the 10 commandments and --

Irene interjected, "What exactly are the 10 commandments?"

"Oh,"  Angela said, confidently, "FIRST, Honor your father and mother.  SECOND, Love God over everything else.  THIRD, Love your neighbor as yourself."  She made some vague hand gestures while trying to think of the next one, and said assertively, "NEXT, Keep the 10 commandments (this is my favorite) and NEXT, give food to the hungry and give clothes to the needy..." She ended there, as if she had said ten things.  Irene was just listening and nodding.  So were we.  It wasn't worth correcting her in that moment.  (A quote from SGibs' journal: "Sister Sandholtz and I just sat there smiling wisely with an expression that said, "Yes, these are the 10 commandments...")  HA!

It was one of my favorite teaching moments of all time.

But the lesson was also very tender.  We had pretty much marked her for baptism for the 14th of june the last time we met with her.  But she is pretty fearful and afraid of change and failure.  I had wanted to apply something that our zl elder Moore had taught us in zone mtg.  -- to tell your investigators that you love them, and to show them you love them.  This whole work is about love!  During the lesson, Irene had told us she wasn't going to come to church.  We asked her if she liked church when she came before and she said yes because she had felt a lot of peace and inspiration there.  So we were confused.

Near the end of the lesson, I looked over at Irene and said, "Irene, we love you."

She threw her hands in the air and exclaimed, "You've known me for a week!!"

"I know,"  I said, "but we are set apart as representatives of Jesus Christ, and with that comes a great love -- His love -- for the people we teach.  Irene, we feel His love for you, and we really love you.  That is why we want you to come to church tomorrow, so you can feel that inspiration and the peace you described feeling last time you came.  We want you to have these blessings because we love you."

She fixed my gaze for a few long seconds, testing me.  She is fiery and jokes around a lot, but deep down she needed what I said to be true.  I held her gaze confidently because I knew what I said was true.

"Will you be at church with us tomorrow?"

She looked at me, and said, simply, "Yes."

It was such a powerful moment for me.  To apply something my mission leaders taught, and to see how huge of a difference it made for Irene to simply know and hear us say that we love her.  

How often do we forget to tell people we love them?  Expressing love is SO important and gives people the courage to do things that scare them.  ALL REAL CHANGE IS MOTIVATED BY LOVE.  this is why the atonement of Jesus Christ can purify, cleanse, uplift and enable us.  Because He LOVES us.  Expressing and showing love is the FIRST thing he asks us to do -- love God with all we are, and love our neighbor as ourself.  

Anyway.  I was so grateful to see that so powerfully with Irene this week.

I also loved watching her while Angela was going off about stuff.  Irene would roll her eyes at me as if to say, Who is this lady!?, but deep down you could tell she was totally loving Angela.  :)  So good.

Oh, yeah, and she TOTALLY  came to church.  And she's totally getting baptized.

Will you pray she can have courage?  That she can feel that love and take this step and not look back or fear?  

I love Irene so much.



Have an amazing week.

Grace be with you,

Sister Sandholtz