Thursday, August 21, 2014

18 Aug 2014 - I will miss boxed milk

Most american missionaries dislike it, but for some reason I just love it.


Well, dears, this week was WACKY.  I don't really know how or have time to describe it, so I will just give you some of the facts.

1. Joao and Sara and Sira didn't get baptized this week.  Sara and Sira kind of disappeared for much of the week, but Joao was em casa and we taught him everything we had left to teach him and we reviewed the interview questions with him and he is sooooo ready it's incredible.  But he doesn't feel like he's ready, and wants to prepare more, and I respect that and I'm not going to force anything.  It's hard to know how to walk that line of helping them see they are ready and also just letting them to come at their own pace.  He said he's never going to miss another Sunday in church.  He's super cool.

2. Isabel is doing great.  We found out she smokes, like 2 cigarettes per day only, but she wants so bad to be able to quit before the 30th for her baptism.  Ah, guys, Isabel is such a huge blessing in my life right now.  I am so grateful for her.  will you pray she can keep progressing and get baptized on the 30th?

3. Transfers!  Sister Stewart is going up NORTH to Braga!!  One of the most beautiful areas.  I will miss her a TON but I know she is in excellent hands ....... with Sister DUKE!!!!  (My mtc comp!  remember her!?)  I am staying here for the next 2 weeks, being comps with Sister Galloway, which is great.  The other area got whitewashed -- Sister Swasey got a surprise phonecall on Saturday morning telling her she would be going home to figure out what is going on with her health.  So now Sister Galloway and I are roommates with Sister Torres (a portuguese sister waiting for her visa to go to brazil.  she seems really neat) and.... wait for it ..... Sister Wach!  A year later, we get to live together again.  It is so fun to see her again and see how much we have both changed and grown in the last year.  When I go home, the areas will merge and the sisters will be a tripla until Sister torres gets her visa.  Lots of changes for Oeiras!  I hope it all goes smoothly!

4.  Hey, cool tender mercy this week -- last Monday S. Stewart and I went to Sintra.  It was beautiful there.  While waiting in a line at the Palacio da Pena, I noticed the couple in front of me was speaking a language that sounded like weird Portuguese morphed with Spanish.  I thought, they must be from Galicia, so I started a conversation with them, and sure enough they are Gallegos!  My heart swelled even though I have never been there -- I thought of you, Dad.  I took a picture with them and will show it to you in 15 days.  

THEN a few days ago I started a conversation with a lady at a bus stop who I noticed looked Indian and was speaking English.  Turns out she is from "near Bangalore", oh, where?,. "Hyderabad.", "HYDERABAD?!"  Cool!!  Her name was Roshni.  I told her my brother Nate was a missionary in Hyderabad a few years ago.  So cool.  She said she might come to church.  

It was just a fun little bit of celestial symmetry, you know?  I was hoping I would bump into some Argenines, Wayne, which I didnt, but I had a vivid dream that I met some, so that's got to count for something, too.  :)

 Well, I have to go.  Email time was robbed today by transfers.  But I got to see Sister Radvansky.  :)

I am so grateful for you.  Keep those chins up!  I love you!

Sister Sandholtz

11 Aug 2014 - you're a wizard, Harry


I am thrilled to hear you are learning Portuguese!  Wahooooo!  Yes, Dad, the language feels WAY different in your mouth than Spanish.  Especially Portuguese in Portugal (not Brasil).  I love it so much.

Speaking of learning Portuguese, we had some fun bloopers this week.  Sister Stewart speaks very well and is learning incredibly fast, but there are still funny moments sometimes.  For example, we were learning bedroom words.  I told her to say "guarda-fatos" (closet), and she said, seriously, "guarda-fatso".  HA!!  Later in the week she accidentally told someone she is studying "enfermidades" (infirmities) instead of "enfermagem" (nursing).  The joys of learning a new language.  :)

Ah, guys.

Have I told you anything about Isabel?  She was a referral from our digeridoo-playing WML, Ruben.  She's around 65, gentle, into Eastern Philosophy, does "sound therapy" for a living, and for many, many years has been looking for a church in which she feels good.

She first came to the ward BBQ a few weeks ago, then we got her contact info and invited her to church.  We've started teaching her with the RS president.  She is super sensitive to the Spirit and seeks to know deeply and understand.  She's been reading the BOM and told us that when she reads she feels something different -- something changes.  It's hard to explain, she said, and we're thinking BINGO that's the Spirit!! 

She loved the Plan of Salvation (I love how much my affection for and understanding of the Plan of Salvation has grown on my mission).  At the end of the lesson, I realized we technically should have planned to extend a date because this was the second lesson with her.  Frankly, I didn't want to.  She struck me as someone who would take her time and come at her own pace and yada yada yada.  

But I wanted to be obedient, so I prayed in my heart "God, I am going to extend a date.  Please cushion it and carry it unto her heart in the way it needs to be carried."  I couldn't remember which days in August were Saturdays, but I remembered August 30th was, so I took that and ran with it.

"We will be having a baptismal service on day 30 of August," I said, "Will you prepare yourself to be baptized on that day?"

She looked at me, smiled, and said, "Yes.  That is what I want to do."

Truthfully I was very SURPRISED.  I didn't expect that.  But it was a beautiful moment.  Isabel is a humble, truth-seeking person.  It is such a privilege to know and teach people like her.  Also, moral of the story: PMG is always right.  :)

Maybe I'll be here for her baptism?  I have no idea what they're planning to do with me for the last 2 weeks of my mission.  

We'll see.

Andre came to church!  I wish I had time to tell you the funny story about that.  

Joao, Sira, and Sara came too!  We are planning their baptism for next Sunday!  I don't have time to tell you more about them, but will you pray that they can continue to feel the Spirit and have courage!?  They are so cool and so ready.  

I am learning a cool lesson about the power of the spirit.  I feel like the Spirit is a healer.  Let me illustrate this with a brief anecdote:  Last night we were out working and I was feeling really pretty horrible.  (This is not uncommon --- it was a Sunday night -- last day of the week -- you're exhausted and ready for Pday and it's summer and it's hot and your body is breaking down because missionary lifestyle is unnaturally demanding etc etc.)  We sat down on some grass and made a few phonecalls and were conversing a bit.  A man with a backpack and a scruffy dog passed by us.  I didn't feel like I even had the energy to talk to him, but thankfully I have an amazing companion.  

Sister Stewart really felt like we should talk to this man, so we got up and crossed the street to catch up to him, and started conversing with him.  I remember thinking to myself at the beginning of the contact, "I don't know if I can do anything else after this contact.  My head hurts, my body hurts, I just want to lie in my bed and sleep for 14 days and then I can move on with my life."  But as we continued talking to him, and bearing testimony of the Restoration, and listening to him talk about what he believes about God and life, those thoughts faded away.  The Spirit helped me stop focusing on myself and start being genuinely interested in this guy, Fernando.

We said a prayer with him and gave him a BOM (this is a spiritual gift of Sister Stewart -- she is so good at placing BOMs in the street) and and arranged to meet with him again on Thursday at the church.  It was a brief encounter -- no more than 8 minutes -- but the Spirit was present and we felt it and he felt it.  

As we walked away, I felt an evening breeze and smelled the summer grass and thought, "Hey!  I feel good!  I can definitely make it until 9:30."

This type of thing happens again and again and again for me.  As missionaries, we are constantly exhausted.  That is just part of the great adventure.  But the one thing that never fails to give me animo and make me feel better is teaching.  Teaching about eternal truths and feeling the Holy Ghost is transformative.  One good lesson can change a "meh" day into something wonderful.  It is remarkable, actually.  I am so grateful.

Well, we're off to Sintra for pday.  

Huge hugs,


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Emergency Transfer!!

Dear ones,

We have a full hour and a half to email for the first time this transfer (finally!) and I am going to make it count.

News from the week:  Sister Hirschi got Emergency Transferred down to Olhao (you were guessing it was me huh? made you look!!) and we have Sister Galloway with us now.  I miss Sister Hirschi a LOT but it's all good because Sister Galloway is also wonderful.  I'm just happy as a peach that Sister Stewart and I get to stay together, because I love her so stinking much.


Earlier this week I was reading President Monson's latest conference talk.  It is titled, "Love:  The Essence of the Gospel".  It talks about when somebody asked Jesus, essentially, "Which commandment is the most important?", and Jesus responds LOVE.  Love God and love your neighbor. 

That really hit me, even though I have read that story many times before.  When Jesus was asked, "What is most important?", He did NOT say going to sacrament meeting or baptizing or paying your tithing or even having faith or EVEN repenting!!  He said LOVE.  This is the great commandment.  

For some reason that is hugely comforting to me.  I sometimes wonder if I have not helped that many people get baptized on my mission, or if there is something wrong with me because I still have fears and doubts sometimes and I don't know all the answers and I am ridiculous and imperfect.  But as I reflected on this I thought, "do I have greater capacity to love than I did 18 months ago?" and the answer, I think, is yes.

If Heavenly Father has taught me anything on my mission (and He's taught me more than I can ever express), He has taught me about love.  His love.  Pure, powerful, divine love, which is found in such unexpected places and showered upon His crazy, wonderful children in all the earth.

It is a privilege to get to feel that love for all the random Joaos and Marias in the streets of Portugal.  It is an abundant blessing to have loved and been loved by eight true sisters who have lived with me, laughed with me, cried with me, and stood by me through all the craziness and wonder.  It is inexpressible to love this land, to love this language, to love these people and traditions and this culture.  Most of all my love for the Lord has increased and deepened and broadened.  I Love Him.  I trust Him more fully than I did before.  I have felt His love and seen it manifest in so many tiny daily miracles that I am left astonished.

I feel like I am doing a very poor job of expressing how I feel, that it is coming out pious and trite.  But I am just trying to say that even if nothing else good even happened on my mission (and many many good things have happened), the way my heart feels like a deeper receptacle for love is a stunning and brilliant and absolutely worth-it-all miracle to me.


Sacrament Meeting yesterday was indescribable.  Our investigator, Joao, who is from Guinnea-Bissau and is ELECT and is marked for baptism on the 17th with his sister Sira and neice Sara (pray for them please!!), came and LOVED it.  So did a couple other really high-potential investigators.  The Spirit was like a river.  It was fast and testimony meeting and this ward is INCREDIBLE.  He was reading the Gospel Principles book and asked me if he could underline a certain paragraph about service, and I was like Be My Guest.  He didn't sing in the hymns but would follow along with his finger to show me he knew where we were.  :)  He is just super awesome.  I haven't felt so much potential in a person for a long time.  He needs to get baptized PRONTO.  

I wish I could describe to you how my soul was feeling during the meeting.  I guess all have to say is that I was feeling the spirit super strong and you all know what I mean.  It was just so powerful and poignant and important and felt a lot like happiness but also a lot like sadness, as only eternal things can.


After church we took naps because we have been kinda sick, but then we went to Adriana's house.  We didn't have a marked apt.  When we knocked she invited us is, but said she had visitors.  We looked into the kitchen to see several of her friends, sitting around with their Sunday afternoon beers.

Earlier on my mission I think I would have been like, "oh, hey, you're busy, we'll come back later, we don't want to interrupt this or incommodate you....", but I am losing my vergonha (shame/timidity) and becoming more bold about what I know to be true.  She invited us in, right?  And I mean, THESE ARE THE WORDS OF ETERNAL LIFE.  There is never a time when we ought to apologize for being there, trying to help people be eternally happy.  So we just went in and started talking to people and handing out our cards.  The party was winding down and pretty soon most of them left.  

We sat down and talked to Adriana for a bit.  I looked around at the empty beers and it just seemed like such a cheap substitute for that real, bone-deep, eternal whatever-it-was that I had just felt.  

What do you seek in your life?  What do you wish for?, I asked her.

It took her a while to respond but she ended up saying, Happiness I guess.

I looked into her eyes and told her that the world has a lot of voices.  The world has a lot of paths that it will tell you lead to happiness.  But the world has a lot of falsehood.  We cannot trust the world.  But there is One we can trust.  There is One path that leads unfailingly and always to happiness.  True happiness.  Real, eternal joy that doesn't last a few seconds or a few minutes or even a few days or years, but for eternity.

I testified that Christ showed us that path.  That He is the way.  The ONLY way.  That loving Him and following Him and doing what He asks us to do is the ONLY way to acheive that true, lasting, real, deep happiness.  

It brought to my mind the exchage between Christ and Peter when many of His disciples had stopped following him and He asks Peter, "Will ye also go away", and Peter is at a loss that He would even ask and responds, "Lord, to whom shall we go?  Thou hast the words of eternal life"  (John 6:67-68).  

There is nothing else that even comes CLOSE to the words of eternal life.  To whom else could we even go?  

It breaks my heart how often people don't understand what they are turning down when they decide not to follow Christ and keep His commandments.  They must not understand, because if they truly understood, to whom else would they go?  He has the words of eternal life!

I often feel like such an insufficient vessel.  If I could somehow help people to better understand this!  Oh, that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart ....  

At the very least, Heavenly Father is sure helping ME understand this, and I suppose that is a good start.


We contacted a Sao Tomense family and the 3 light-filled little boys were giggling after the prayer and exclaimed, "we didn't close our eyes!!" , and I laughed and my heart hurt because they were so full of light and pure and innocent.  Children are astonishing to me.


I have to end this.  

My heart has been feeling so much like a heart of flesh lately, not a heart of stone, and that has felt really good.  Heavenly Father is pouring out a lot of grace and understanding upon my head during this the end of my mission and I can't express how grateful I am.  Minha alegria transborda.  Overflows.  There's too much to contain.

You all are miraculous.  Thank you for being your magnificent selves.

Be kind, be good, be gentle, be honest, forgive, love.

Walk in His paths.

I love you.