Monday, September 1, 2014

Swing Low Sweet Chariot ...

coming forth to carry me home, Swing low, sweet chariot, coming forth to carry me HOME!!!!!

Favorite people,

This week was a marvel.  I haven't had a week that felt like this since Evora, I think.  Such a blessing.

Isabel did in fact get baptized on Saturday.  It was so so so lovely.  SUCH a tender mercy to end my mission this way.  

Isabel really gets it.  She truly studied and learned and prepared and has such a sweet, deep desire to follow God.  A couple weeks ago she had told us that she wasn't going to tell her family she was getting baptized (they are very Catholic).  We told her it was her call, but that we've seen many times that a person's family often reacts much more positively than they expect.  Just tell them why this is important to you, we said, and invite them to your baptism.  

Well.  She did!  (This is how you can tell Isabel is PREPARED -- she actually does the things we invite her to do.  He humility is just beautiful.)  And they ALL CAME.  To her surprise!  Both her children, all her grandkids, and her sister.  The baptism was lovely.  We invited her to give a brief testimony after the baptism, and she was super nervous, but just spoke so sweetly and honestly about how she had been looking all her life for a church that responded to her questions and where she felt good, and she finally found it.  She is such a bright, bright example to me.  

The baptism was well attended, I got to play my violin, and afterwards Isabel invited us and two couples from the ward over to have dinner at her house with her and her family.  It was awesome.  Her family is so so cool and her house is really funky and cool and I think the family liked the whole experience, or at least got to see that we are pretty normal people after all.  Her sister even came yesterday to see her get confirmed.  And Isabel had to leave a few minutes early from church but as she left she said to Sister Wach, "that's my sister! go get her number and try to arrange to talk with her this week!!"  SO. COOL.  Seriously, you guys, Isabel is INCREDIBLE.

She just called me to say goodbye and was like, "we can still talk on email, right?"  Of course.  :)

That reminds me, I got to make some phone calls yesterday.  The best was talking to Nazare and Nelma.  Nazare is suuuuper sick, and it sounds like Evora is kind of struggling, so that phone call was a little sobering.  But she called me "my angel"  a hundred thousand times, and it was just so good to hear her voice.  That woman blessed my life sooooo much.  She is my hero.

Nelma was like "SANDHOESSSS!!!!" and talked to me as if I were in Lagos yesterday.  I love that lady so much.  She is still planning on going to the temple with me and Sister Warburton sometime soon, so I will have to start planning for that....  She also still is dead set on me marrying this one elder that left Lagos right before I arrived.  :)  Oh, Nelma.  Always the matchmaker.  She proposed a 3-way Skype call so that we could meet, and I almost gagged at how awkwardinho that would be.  Ohmylanta.  I was laughing my guts out, talking to her.


On Friday to Saturday we got to fast.  It saddened me that this would be my last fast in the mission.  I really really love the clarity of fasting.  We started our fast in the church, right after Isabel's baptismal interview.  I knelt against a chair near the baptismal font and thought, and prayed.  

My soul filled with gratitude, my heart hurt with gratitude and felt fleshy and full.  I thought how it is almost uncomfortable to feel so grateful to the Lord and not know how to ever repay or fully express that gratitude.

A thought came to my mind: "The way you can thank me is the way you live."

It's true.  The only way we can show our thanks to God is in the life we live -- the kind of people we become.  I just want to be good and righteous and virtuous and gentle and compassionate and forgiving and pure.  I want to show my thanks to God in the way I treat every person around me.

The mission is nothing but a gift.  We come out here thinking we are offering something to God, and I suppose we are, we are offering our selves, and doing that inevitably brings us to realize that being here is much less an offering from us to Him than it is a Gift from Him to us.  He lets us participate in this glorious work, and it changes us forever.

The mission is a gift God gives us to help us get over ourselves and internalize the gospel by DOING it.  We can talk about gospel principles all day long and feel the spirit, but the mission gives us the chance to SHOW that faith in the face of opposition, and emerge tested and with deeper roots and more resilient faith.

We can't learn to love like Christ until we're out here having the chance to love people who may seem less loveable than we are accustomed to.  It is a gift.  It is a gift, and my soul aches that I have to move on from this phase, but I know that the way to thank Heavenly Father for this gift is how I live the rest of my life, starting now.  I cannot say the smallest part which I feel.

We can talk about these things as we sit around the firepit making delicious hot shmoes in a couple days.

I am so excited to see you.

I love you.

Sister Sandholtz

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