Sunday, December 20, 2015


December 20, 2015 (from Dad)

Dear Family,

Last Wed. we went to the James E Faust Recreational Area between SP and Sorocaba.  It is a large and gorgeous area owned by the Church.  It was so beautiful that I wondered if Adam and Eve were around somewhere.  Our bus got stuck in the mud about a quarter of a mile from the site and they had to get a tractor to pull it out.  So all the missionaries in our group walked the rest of the way.  We went there with the Thompsons and missionaries from the Sao Paulo West Mission.  We waited around under a big gondola which had a kitchen.  While we were waiting, Sister Gaspar's mother was talking to me.  She and her husband are the missionaries that take care of the property along with one other couple.  I had met her before but not her husband and hadn't really remembered her name.  Her missionary tag said 'Sister Saraiva'.  It kind of took me by surprise and I asked her, "Do you by chance know a man by the name of Expedito Saraiva?"  She laughed as did the other sister and I said, "What, is he your brother?"They laughed even louder.  Sister Saraiva finally said, "He is my husband."  Expedito was the branch president in my last area, Sao Jose dos Campos.  He was a sargent in the Brazilian Air Force and I remember when we went out to the base for dinner and stayed overnight.  I loved Pres Saraiva.  He added the name 'Zion' to his and people would say, "That isn't your last name, what does that mean - Zion?"  He baptized over 400 people.and the local ministers used to tell everyone, "Watch out for Mr. Zion."  His first wife passed away about seven years ago, so even though I saw the name tag 'Saraiva', didn't mean too much because I didn't know she had died.  The new sister Saraiva has been married to President Saraiva for two years.  He was never going to marry again.  Sister Gaspar had told her mother about Pres. Saraiva and what a good man he was but she wasn't interested.  Then Carlos Gaspar began talking about a man he had met who was such a good man but didn't mention his name.  Then one day, they realized they were talking about the same man.  Anyway, they dated for quite a while and then got married.  All five of Sister Saraiva's children were sealed to them in the Sao Paulo Temple.  Sister Gaspar told Pres. Saraiva that an Elder Sonderegger was here with them and he said, "I knew an Elder Sonderegger, is he kind of a big guy?"  "Yes"  "It couldn't possible be the same one!"  He left his house and came down to the gazebo and he saw me and we both went running and I think I about picked him up off the ground as he hugged me.  It was such a neat experience.  We visited quite a few times during the day and at one point, he was showing me some pictures and he pulled out a Salt Lake Temple Articles of Faith card and handed it to me and said, "Do you know this fellow?"  On the card it said, "Ferron E. Sonderegger".  He had kept that card I had given him for 42 years.  He wants us to come back out and stay with them on a weekend.  I am sure we will.  He is 78 years old and he runs around that property like a much younger man.  Mom and I both said how much he reminded us of Grandpa Benson. 

We had lots of good food and Paula and I went walking through the forest.  We saw several wild pineapple plants and tons of gorgeous flowers everywhere.  We took a lot of pictures.  It rained all day and was cold, but we still had fun.  We got back to the apartments about 9:30 pm.

Friday we met with Fernando Souza in his office for a conference call to SLC to talk about the food program.  We got some ideas and Fernando would like us to get a project going in Praia Grande where a member has a piece of land he would let the stake use for gardening.  Praia Grande is by the port city of Santos and Sao Vicente.  It isn't by the beach, it is the beach.  Just a little place, only about 230,000 people.  Praia Grande has a direct route to Sao Paulo so you don't have to go through Santos.  He also wants us to start a food project in the city of Jundiai between SP and Campinas.  Jundiai is where I taught classes for a week back in 2011.  They have a lot of apple plantations there and have developed the technology and nohow of how to grow apples in a tropical climate, like Gala apples which we see in the store all the time.  So we feel like we have a lot to do all of a sudden.

Yesterday morning I went with Elder Thompson (he is 72) to the feira about three miles from here.  A feira is an outdoor market.  I really enjoyed walking around looking at the fruit and vegetables, cheaper and fresher than what you get in the store.  I ran into some members from the ward too.  I bought quite a few things and a poinsettia plant for Mom.  That is a tradition for Christmas and I was glad I found one.  They had lots of pastel booths.  So I ordered some with with cheese and a pizza variety and took them back to our apt.  They were really good.  I had a nice visit with the lady who sold them and told her I had waited a long time to have one again.  I also went to a booth that selling ice cold coconut water and sugar cane juice.  It was really good and refreshing.  Mom is cooking a roast beef dinner today and some of what I bought.  I had fun shopping there and we will go again.  Mom didn't go as she had a bad headache.  Watched the BYU-Utah game in our apt.  Blast, the Y came up short, but an interesting game and the strangest I have ever seen.  I think Kilani Sitake will be a great coach for BYU.

Had good meetings in church today.  I made a few comments and enjoyed the meetings very much.  Well, sure love you all.  MERRY CHRISTMAS.

December 20, 2015 (from Mom)

Dear family,

We have had a very good week.  I think that things are going to start to really pick up for us.  Bro. Gaspar had his last day on Tues. and I am trying to learn all that he did.  I found out on Friday that there is a very important meeting on Tues. that I have to have the PowerPoint presentation ready!  It is almost ready but there are some things that I still have to learn about PowerPoint before I can get it completed.  Bro. Gaspar is coming over to the office tomorrow to help me.  I had no idea that this was for the meeting.  The Area Presidency might be there.  

Most of our senior couples went on "vacation" this week.  They went down to southern Brazil for a week.  They will be back on Tues.  We got here too late to go with them and now I can see that it is a very good thing that we didn't go.  We had a conference call with Salt Lake on Friday that got us both really pumped up!  In fact, when we left to come home I told Dad that all of a sudden I feel like we have a ton of things to do and not much time to get it done!  It was a good feeling.

Members of the Welfare Dept. took Bro. Gaspar to lunch on Tues. to a really good churrascaria (Brazilian barbecue) and it was really good.  Dad and I ate there 23 years ago with Sergio and Glaucia.  Carlos Gaspar is such a good man.  He is about Jolene's age and has retired.  They are moving to Salt Lake in Feb.  His wife is going to take an English immersion program and then get more nurses training at the "U."  She is a nurse here but I don't think she is working right now.  Her name is Dagmar (Carlos calls her "Daggi") and she is helping me with my Portuguese and I am helping her with her English.  She came over on Friday and I helped her with their application for the married student housing at the "U."  I think that they will be living in the same complex that Lynn and Brandi lived in a few years ago.

On Wed. we went to a very special retreat with the Sao Paulo West missionaries for their Christmas Conference.  It was a GORGEOUS place.  It would make the best place to have a family reunion and it is very cheap to rent!  I have attached some pictures of it.  It is called the James E. Faust something or other.  The church owns it and they can host four stakes at a time there.  It rained on us all day but I didn't care.  Ferron and I went for some walks to take in all of the beauty.  The missionaries didn't care about the rain either.  They played soccer, volleyball, football, etc. all day long and were completely soaked and muddy by the end of the day.  They had a ball!

For those of you who have ever gone huckleberry picking, or been up in the mountains, off of the main roads, picture in your minds a little trail of a very hilly road that is all wet and muddy because of the rain.  Got that picture?  Now add a Greyhound bus to your picture!  I think that you have guessed it--we got stuck!  We had to walk the remainder of the way to the retreat, which was about a mile or so, in the rain and mud!  I was determined to have a good time anyway but the other senior couple who came with us, well the sister, was not happy at all.  We felt bad that we had talked them into coming.  At least when the first group of young missionaries arrived, Dagmar came in an SUV to rescue us.  (Carlos is in the mission presidency.)  I thought that Sis. Thomson was at least 75, but I found out that she is Cynthia's age.  I'm sure glad that my sister doesn't act like an old woman!  Compared to Sis. Thomson, I'm sure that people would think that Cynthia is about 50!  Don't get me wrong, I like Sister Thomson a lot but she does act old.  I want to grow old like our mother and grandmother!  I tell people all of the time that my mom doesn't act her age and that I'm very grateful!

Friday we had a wonderful meeting with Salt Lake and we really got fired up.  This is about doing some food production and hygiene programs.  We are also working on a water project for the northeast but this other will probably take some precedence.  We are starting to study Pres. Uchtdorf's talk about the welfare program from the Oct. 2011 conference.  It is really powerful.  We are supposed to put together a presentation using that talk and our personal experiences.  The Teton Flood days will really help us here.  One project has already been approved that Fernando really wants us to get busy with.  It is about an hour away from here, close to Santos.  We are really excited.

At church today I volunteered to lead the music in Relief Society.  The sister who usually does it is one of our missionaries who is on the trip.  I was also asked to take part in the lesson.  The teacher said that I could do it in English, but I did it in Portuguese.  I got lots of "thumbs up" and a pat on the back from a sister.  I know that I made mistakes but I think that the women knew what I was trying to say.  I am trying really hard to speak more.  I know lots of words but it is hard to get them all put together correctly, but I am trying.  Some of the sister missionaries who have been here for over a year haven't learned any, or very little, Portuguese.  I want to be able to do my part, in fact, when we start to give our presentations I told Dad that I want to have a speaking part.  Anyway, it is coming slowly but surely.

It has been a good week and I'm sure that this week will be also.  I can't believe that it is Christmas already!  People really have the Christmas spirit around here.  You see nativities all over the place; in stores, in parks, along the highways, etc.  We could take a little lesson from the Brazilians about that and not get so caught up in being too "politically correct."  Brazilians are a very happy people even though things are very difficult for them financially down here because of the huge amount of corruption in the government.  Oh, I forgot, we also went to the temple on Friday.  I talked to a sister in the dressing room and I learned something very interesting.  She told me that most Brazilians do not like Carnival one bit.  I asked here if that was just the members of the church and she said no, it was country wide that they do not like Carnival because of so much crime and evil that go along with it.  (This was all in Portuguese.)  I thought that was very interesting.

Well I'd better close for now.  I have attached some pictures of the retreat we went to.  You will see our stuck bus, beautiful flowering trees, wild pineapples, a lake, a Brazilian Parana pine tree, and the missionaries having a good time.  The pictures are not as clear as I would have liked I think because of the rain and fog.  I love you all very much.  Hope you have a very good week and especially have a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!


Friday, December 18, 2015

December 17, 2015

December 10-14, 2015

Dear Family,

I don’t know if anyone is reading these, but it is an easier way to keep a diary for me anyway.  Last Thursday, we went with Elder and Sister Hale into the centro to get our CPF which is basically a social security number.  When we got on the Metro, mom and I sat by two young woman.  They seemed pleasant and so we started talking to them.  They were headed to take the ‘vestibular’ which is a standard test to qualify to get into college.  There are only so many openings, so it is a big deal.  They said they weren’t too worried.  Then one of them said, “You are Mormons right?”  We said yes and then I had a video I had brought of Silent Night with the Tabernacle Choir.  I told them I brought it on purpose to give to someone on the Metro.  I started explaining about the choir and one of the girls said, “I have been on Temple Square before and my best friend is a Mormon.”   They asked us where we were from and we said Idaho.  The same girl said, “I have  been to Idaho.”  “Where?”  “Blackfoot.”  Mom said, “I was born in Blackfoot.”  As I have said before, there are over 4 million people transported on the Metro every day.  What were the chances of us sitting next to one of them who had been to SLC and Blackfoot?  We then paid a fee at the Post Office, and took the receipt to the Receita Federal just down the hall.  I went in and got my ticket of when it was my turn, and sat down by a young man.  We started talking as he didn’t seem Brazilian to me although his Portuguese was great.  He said, “I’m from Haiti.”  He then told me that my number would show up on the screen and what teller to go to.  My teller left for a few minutes and I noticed the Haitian fellow standing off to my right so I went over and talked to him.  I asked him why his Portuguese was so good and he told me he had worked for the Brazilian Embassy in Haiti.  I gave him a pass along card.  After we got our CPF, we were walking down the hall in the Shopping Light Mall (was the Canadian Light building when Canada came in and did the electrical work in SP many years ago), and I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned around and it was the Haitian.  He asked me if we taught English classes and I said we did.  I told him where we were in SP and he knew where it was.  He seemed real excited and I hope he will come.  A very very friendly fellow with a huge smile.  We then went to a huge food court where there were hundreds of people in lines at the twenty plus eating places.  Mom and Sister Hale got a subway sandwich and I got a freshly baked lasagna and Elder Hale a milanésa.  Gostoso!  Brazilians like to eat and they know how to do great food.

We walked up and down the area by Edifício Itália, the Teatro Municipal and Praça da República for about an hour.  The downtown area isn’t so run down as it was.  There are hundreds of skyscrapers and businesses of all kinds.  Some of the streets are completely shut down to traffic which is nice.  Some of the buildings (the whole building) were wrapped like Christmas packages.  We passes by a little girl selling a few small trinkets out of a basket.  She obviously wasn’t having any success.  I told mom, “I have to go back.”  So I turned around but she wasn’t there.  I walked back a ways and saw here across the street so I walked across and handed her R$25.00 and said, “Feliz Natal” (Merry Christmas) and walked away.  I turned around and waved at her and she had the biggest smile and waved back.  I know it didn’t solve her problems, but for a time, maybe she feels like somebody in the world cared and that was worth it to me.  I will never forget that smile.  When we got on the bus at the Butanta station, I was talking to an older lady who was with her little nephew.  I noticed a fellow standing listening intently so I included him in the conversation.  He finally smiled and said, “I have been a bishop in the Church and am currently a counselor in the bishopric.”  We talked for quite a while til we had to get off at our stop.  We talked a lot about Oscar Schmidt, Brazil’s Pele of basketball.  He was surprised that I knew all about him.  I do because I have his autobiography at home and have read it. 

Saturday mom and I went and got groceries at Pão de Açúcar.  We bought a roast (lagarto), or at least we are going to put it in the oven.  I then took off on the bus to Embu das Artes with Elder Zaugg to pick up the painting we had done of the São Paulo temple.  We sat by people on the bus and visited.  I sat by a fellow a year older than me so we had quite a bit in common.  He gave him a DVD of the Tabernacle Choir.  He was happy about that.  Elder Zaugg  was talking to two ladies, one who had been an English teacher and has been to the USA.  The other lady started talking about how we are decended from monkees and Elder Zaugg said, “No, we are created by God and in His image.”  The lady said, “But the skeletons they find……….!  They are monkey skeletons.”  To break the tension I said, “Of course there are some politicians who are descended from monkees.” Instant laughter, probably because Brazil’s president is headed for impeachment and the government is so corrupt that many politicians have been jailed.  We got to Embu and picked up the picture.  It turned out really nice.  I didn’t really want to buy many things right now, but it was something that will be really nice.  Elder Zaugg and I had a good talk on the way back.  He told me not to wait for the administrators to tell us what to do but just go about developing our own program.  That is what we have started to do.  It is still a little strange not to have any direction, but hopefully that will change.  We got on CHaS finally (Church Humanitarian Site) found that two water projects have been approved for the states of Paraíba and Piauí in the hot, semi-arid Northeast.  I imagine we will be going there and it will be extremely hot.  I might come back the size of a pencil as much as I sweat.  I know the Lord will protect us, so I am not going to worry about it.  I hope we can do something really good to help people who don’t have easy access to water.  Some areas up there don’t even have a water table, so water is trucked in.  Water is one of those blessings we take for granted until we have to do without.  We are using our water purifier on our tap.  No missionaries who have used it have ever gotten sick.  It saves us a lot of money on bottled water, plus the hassle.

Our Sunday School teacher has done a lot of interpreting for the Church leaders when they come down, like in 1996 when Pres. Hinckley and Elder Scott came down and we listened to them at Morumbi.  We mentioned that and he said that he was the interpreter for Pres. Hinckley.  The General Authorities have been told not to tell jokes or use sports stories in other languages because they often don’t mean anything to the people.  I remember hearing of an interpreter who listened to the joke told by the GA and then said in his language, “I have no idea what that joke means or how to interpret it, but everyone please laugh when I finish speaking.”

Monday was a good day as we were busier.  Mom worked on the fast offering reports with Irmão Gaspar.  He and his family are leaving for the USA in January and will live in Salt Lake while sister Gaspar gets her nursing degree.  They are such good people and we will miss them greatly.  I worked on a better version of the exercise program I have designed for missionaries so they can work out in their apartments.  Sister Cox who the Church has sent all over the world working with missionaries with mental/emotional problems has been sending it out to the elders and sisters.  She was talking about an elder who was going crazy not being able to do any kindof workout and I told her I would be happy to write something up for him.  I have written hundreds upon hundreds of workouts for over forty years, so it was fun for me to do.  So workout is evolving and I keep trying to make it better, something I always tried to do with the workouts I designed.  She was so grateful and is already getting posititive feedback from missionaries.  Today I am finishing typing it out in Portuguese for the Brazilian missionaries.  If any of you who read this would like a copy, just let me know and I will send it to you.  On second thought, I will include it in this email.  For FHE the DePaulas were in charge.   Sister DePaula is so sick with encephilitus and really should go home.  She just keeps getting worse.  We feel bad for her and pray for her.  You could all include her in your prayers.  She is around 75 years old.  Even though she feels horrible, she still made dinner for us all, a delicious chicken and rice dish.  She is American and brother DePaula is a Brazilian from Curitiba, really great people.  They also showed us a Christmas program from byutv by the singing trio GENTRI and a 13 year old girl named Lexi Walker who has an encredible voice.  You would all enjoy watching this.  Just go to  If you watch it, see if you recognize the tall fellow in the middle of GENTRI.  You may have seen him somewhere.  Well, love you all and hope you all have a very Merry Christmas.  Christmas for me has always been a great time and fun to go shopping for people I love.  I miss it.   God is at the helm, stay on the ship and all will be well.

Love,  Dad

December 15, 2015

Today, Irmao Ivan came and asked if we would like to go to the churrasco with he and his wife, Irmao Gilberto and irmao Gaspar whose last day was today.  We gave him a BYU tee shirt and he got really emotional.  Going to miss him.  We went to the churrasco close to our offices.  Mom and I went there with the Sergio and Glaucia in 1993.  It was really good.  We had some fried polenta that I love and mom had some bread she really liked.  We had some grilled mozzarella balls that were awesome.  The meat was divine.  We had picanha which is a step up from filet mignon, pork ribs, turkey, a huge piece of meat they said was done Uruguay style, salmon, chicken that melted in your mouth and we even had cupim which is a cut from the hump of a brahma bull and it was wonderfully tender.  It was for mom's birthday too as that is exactly where we were going to go.  Tonight we had a fresh fruit salad as we were still full.  I called Fernando Souza, our dept. head as he had surgery last week and got infection.  He said he was doing better but still miserable.  Please keep him in your prayers.  He is such a good man and a hard worker in everything he does.  We are going to a recreation area owned by the Church out by Sorocaba with all the missionaries from the SP West Mission.  We won't get back til nightfall.  I also found five small towns in Piaui state that can only get water by truck.  Maybe we will be going there.  Fernando was happy we were finding potential places.  Just thought I would update you.

Love, Dad

December 13, 2015

(Sorry I'm slow on's been quite the hectic week!)

Dear Family,

Well another week has passed.  We still aren't very busy but hopefully things are looking up.  We know that two water projects have been approved for next year up in the northeast.  That is a semi-arid part of Brazil.  It really surprised me that Brazil has a dry region.  We have been doing research about water resources, policies, etc. here in Brazil.  I thought that we needed to know what all of the terms mean before we actually meet with someone.  Right now it is just a very slow time of the year as it is now summer vacation and the schools are either already out or will be getting out right away, it is the holidays, and then it will be Carnival so it might not pick up until the first of March.  I guess that we just have to be patience.  Maybe we will find more to do.  The Welfare Dept. down here consists of only 4 people I think and one of them is retiring this week and another one is changing depts. so we will probably have more to do.

Most of the other missionary couples are leaving on Tues. to go on "vacation!"  They are going down to southern Brazil and it sounds like a lot of fun.  We got here too late to go with them so it will be lonely for a week.  Oh well.  We are going to go with the Sao Paulo West mission on Wed. to an area a couple of hours away to some property that the church owns.  I guess it is really nice.  All of the young missionaries are going so we will tag along.  It should be a nice day.

On Friday we went into the city to get our last registration papers completed.  Another couple took us and we had a good time.  We had an interesting experience on the metro.  Dad bought some DVDs of a church Christmas video and has been giving them to people.  He brought one with us and we saw two young women that really looked nice.  Dad stated to talk to them and one asked if we were Mormon.  We said yes.  Dad gave one of them the DVD with the intent that she share.  They were on their way to take the Vestibular-the entrance exam to get into college.  One of the girls said that she has been to Temple Square and has heard the Tabernacle Choir.  She asked where we were from and he said, "Idaho."  She said that she has been to Blackfoot!  I said that I was born in Blackfoot!  What are the odds of that happening in a city where approx. 4 million people ride the metro everyday!  It was neat.  Dad talks to people wherever we go.  I think that he does more than the other missionaries.

I am trying to be more brave and talk to more people.  One of the senior sisters has been here for just over a year and hasn't learned any Portuguese except for 'How are you,' 'Thank you,' etc.  I want to be able to visit with people.  I am trying hard to talk.  I understand quite a bit but it is much harder to speak.  I have been brave and gone alone (in our office building) to ask people some things a few times.  Tomorrow I am going to start visiting with a member lady who lives over here by us and she is trying to learn English as they are moving to Salt Lake in Feb.  We are going to meet for an hour each day.  I visited with her for a while yesterday and that really helped me.  They say you have to make 5,000 or so mistakes before you get a language down.  I'm working on that number!  :)

I sang in a choir last week for a special devotional with the Area Presidency.  It was a lot of fun.  The Brazilian people really like to sing and sometimes they hit the right notes!  There was a good spirit there.  One of the women next to me asked me to teach her how to lead music.  That would be a lot of fun.  I told her I would so I hope that it works out.
After the meeting I visited with our friend, Jairo (Elder) Mazzagardi and his wife, Elizabeth.  They are such good people.  They really took care of our family when we were down here 19 years ago.  I told him that I couldn't tell him that he gave a good talk!  Of course, it was all in Portuguese and what was harder is that I was sitting in the choir seats behind the pulpit so it was doubly hard for me to understand the talks.

Our Sunday School teacher teaches at the University of Sao Paulo and is one of the church translators and he has translated some of the scriptures and he translates when General Authorities come.  In fact, he was the translator when we were here before when Pres. Hinckley talked and the meeting was in the Morumbi soccer stadium.  He teaches our class, for the missionaries, in English.  He told us today that they always ask the General Authorities not to use sports illustrations in their talks in conference.  He said that that is one of the hardest things to translate because sayings don't translate.  He said, for instance, "Don't drop the ball."  Well how do you make that make any sense in Brazil, or in most countries of the world, where they don't ever touch the ball with their hands?!  I've never thought about that.  We have learned some interesting things from him.  He is a brilliant man.

We love you all very much and hope that things are going well for all of you.  You are in our prayers.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

December 7, 2015 (from Mom)

Hi Family,

This week we hit a few milestones.  First of all we passed the one month mark of our mission!  On one hand it seems like we just left and on the other it seems like we have been here forever.  I think that is pretty normal for anything.  Second, we finally got something worked out so that we can get some tv down here.  I know that seems weird being missionaries, but things are different for the senior missionaries.  Third, we went to the Federal Police and got our official papers.  It was a wild ride, that's for sure.  At least we saw parts of the city that we never would have seen before.  There are some really nice houses here and it is obvious that those people have money and a lot of it!

We had a conference call with Salt Lake on Friday to get the ball rolling on us starting a water project.  A couple will be coming down here sometime in Jan. or Feb. to go up to the northeast and get something going.  I didn't know this but that part of Brazil is a semi-arid region and they always have trouble with water.  Probably the reason why things seem to be taking forever is that they haven't had a welfare couple here for over 10 years and so I think that they don't really know what to do with us just yet.  We have a lot of studying to do to research out an area where they would benefit with a project.

We have had a few interesting things happen to us as well.  There have been a few times when Dad has forgotten his missionary badge and has had to go back to get it.  There have also been some other interesting things happen.  The other day I went to brush my teeth and my toothbrush was missing.  I asked Dad if he had taken my toothbrush and he said, "No, why would I do that?"  Well I found it in the kitchen.  (We brush our teeth in the kitchen as that is where our filtered water is.)  I told him and he said, "Whoops."  I said that he needs to be more aware of what is going on around him.  He said, "I guess I have officially reached geezerhood!"  Well when we left that day we were in our elevator and I said, "Oh no, I have forgotten my badge."  So we had to go back up and get it.  That night we were watching some tv and I had on my prescription glasses but I needed just my reading glasses and I couldn't find them.  I looked all around the sofa and then I felt on top of my head and there they were!  Dad said, "Maybe you need to be a little more aware of your surroundings!  I think that you have also reached geezerhood!"  I think that it must be the humidity or something!  I hope that we make it through as we have a long time to go!  We had a good laugh.

Yesterday we went into the city with the other missionaries, there were 16 of us that went.  You should have seen that many people trying to get on an already crowded bus!  They say that you can always get one more on and I believe it!  Boy we were very squished but we didn't have to go very far to the metro station.  We went to a monastery in the city center where they had a display of nativities.  It was nice.  I wish that I could have taken some pictures of the inside of the church but it was prohibited.  It was very ornate and pretty and interesting.  When we came out, Dad wanted me to take a picture of the tallest building in the world that is completely made of cement.  I was trying to get a picture when a man came up to me who had no teeth and his shirt was unbuttoned most of the way and he had some kind of large wound on his abdomen.  It actually looked like one of his organs hanging out and he was begging for money.  It was obviously fake.  We saw something similar 19 years ago in a similar part of the city where a man was lying, well writhing, on a piece of cardboard and had the worst makeup job wound on his leg that I have ever seen.  He had cups out to collect money.  It is sad that people resort to that.  I had a hard time yesterday getting away from that man.  Dad took care of me, though, and moved between me and him and ushered me along.

The missionaries are meeting down in our courtyard this evening and singing Christmas carols.  There is a nice Nativity display set up down there and also some other decorations.  We are going to have dinner at one of the couples afterward.  One couple is going home tomorrow.  We don't know them very well but it is still sad to see them leave.  They are here with their 35 year old son who has something similar to Asperger's Syndrome.  He has done lots of names indexing and has also found a lot of family names for the temple.  That was his mission call.  They are good people.

Well I hope that you all have a good week.  We sure love you all very much.


December 7, 2015

Dear Family,

We have had a good last few days.  We have been getting ready for a Christmas program in which we are singing with a small choir and then I, yes me, am singing with a group of men, including Antonio Carlos Guerra who I worked with when he was 15 years old.  We are singing for the Area Presidency, scary a little bit.  We are getting busier, especially today.  We have emails from Elder Henrie and Brother Brady in SLC about water projects (wells) to be dug in the Northeaster part of Brazil.  We had a conference call with them and we are excited.  Elder and Sister Henrie will be coming to Brasil in Fevereiro to train us and travel around with us.  This is great news and an answer to our prayers.  We could end up having a project or two in the states of Paraiba, Piaui, Pernambuco or Ceará.  You can look on Google Earth to see where they are.  This is an area of the country where there is a perpetual drought condition.  In some areas, all agua potável (drinkable water) is trucked into these small Sugar City size areas.  I imagine if we go there, it will be by car and driving across areas of Brazil where there are few people.  Our director, Fernando Souza, is having surgery today.  He didn’t tell anyone except mom and I and two other fellows, irmão Gaspar and irmão Bonini who we work with.  In our Monday morning devotional, we finished and I was surprised that nobody had mentioned Fernando and there wasn’t a prayer for him, so before everyone could leave, I said, which I assumed was true, “You know that irmão Fernando is in the hospital this morning for surgery and I think we ought to say a special prayer for him.”  Everybody was shocked and the fellow in charge for the week asked me if I would say the prayer, which I was glad to do.  Fernando should be back by the end of the week.

Fernando sent me two emails that he sent last Friday to a minister of the 7th Day Adventist Church in Brasilia (the capital of Brasil), and to another fellow who I don’t know.  In the email, Fernando told the one fellow that he would be flying to Brasilia to visit with him.  That could mean that it will be us and Fernando, or just Fernando, or just us.  I guess we will find out soon. 

On Sat., we went into the city center, the most dangerous part, and visited a monastery,  We were hoping to hear the monks do their Gregorian chants, but they weren’t doing it that day.  Most everyone spent their time buying souvenirs, but Paula and I went in and sat down in the very large chapel area (I don’t know what you call that in the Catholic Church).  There were quite a few people who came in and were praying, not out loud, but reverently.  I know I took off my hat and just sat very quietly out of respect for the church and the people praying.  It was a very beautiful building on the inside.  We then went to lunch at the Café Girondino close to the monastery and Rua São Bento where I used to send packages back to my parents with things like butterfly wing trays.  The restaurant is one of the oldest in the city.  They treated us really well and I think we will go back.  Mom and I had a grilled chicken sandwich with tomato and emantaler (sp ?) cheese on a ciabatta bun.  I ordered a plate of mandioca frita (fried manioc root) for us both.  Well, they brought French fries and I said, “That isn’t what I ordered”, so they asked everybody else and came back to give it to me again.  I told them that I specifically asked for mandioca frita not batatas fritas.  So  they went and got the mandioca and it was beyond delicious, way better than French fries.  None of the missionaries had ever heard of it and we let them try some and they loved it.  I wish you were here to eat it with us.  The head waiter then began asking, as is traditional, if we wanted café.  Everybody of course said no and he was standing by me looking really perplexed and I said, “Would you like to know why we don’t want café?”  He said he would like to know and I gave him a condensed word of wisdom lesson and he thought that was pretty cool.  We then just chatted and he basically said that we weren’t like some Americans, that we were so happy and friendly and nice to the staff.  So we made a good impression on all the waiters there.  On the way in I had seen an older man sitting at a table that looked like his and his spot only.  When we left, he was still there so I went over and made friends with him and we had a good chat while we waited for the other missionaries to come downstairs.  It is easy to smile and say something kind to anyone here.  I talked to two high school aged boys on the Metro and they left thinking good things about Americans.  I talked to a young mother with a four month old baby with lots of dark black hair and talked about the Church.  I told her she reminded me of four of our grandchildren who were born with lots of black hair (I wonder who that could be?).   I watched the Alabama and Florida game on usatv which we now have.  It made me feel way less homesick which has been tough to wake up feeling everyday.  Sounds weird, I know, but just to be able to see one game has made a big difference already.  That and just trying harder and looking for things to do, things to say, etc. and just try to go about doing good.  I feel the best I have felt on our mission and I think we are both starting to see why we are here.  I also went with a member to the fitness center here and biked and bench pressed and that made my day as my body was starting to feel way out of shape.  I plan on going there twice a week which will be just fine time-wise and fitness wise. 

Sunday, we went to our meetings.  I am the official new ‘if you can’t find someone to go home teaching with you, call Elder Sonderegger guy’, which will be great.  Maybe we can reactivate some people.  We had a great testimony meeting.  The testimonies were about the Savior and His gospel, nothing else.  Great spirit.  I went and talked to sister Walkyria Bronze Damiano afterwards.  I asked her if by any chance her father was Irmão Rui Bronze?  She said yes and I told her that her father made two suits for me when I was a missionary.  He was a tailor and I have a picture of him and myself together.  Those are great experiences to tie into people here.  We had dinner at Fernando’s apartment which is only a block from where we live.  He and his wife are great people.  She is the Primary President and was responsible for putting together a wonderful program a couple of weeks ago.  They have only been in São Paulo just over a year.  They are from Fortaleza in the North where he was a stake president.  We then went hope in an incredible rain storm.  We live on a hill that goes down to Avenida Francisco Morato and the water was coming down in torrents.  We had to wait a while to cross the street as it was a river.  In the evening, we went to a Christmas singing event by the São Paulo 5th ward and they invited all the missionary couples to come up and sing in English our Christmas songs.  So accompanied by Elder Zaugg on the guitar, we sang.  The Brazilians there, member and non member would clap to the rhythm of the music.  Never had that happen before, but it was really fun.  We made an impression on everyone.  Almost all the non members here at Vertentes talk to us.  They know who we are.  Well, I have rambled enough so I will quit here.  My testimony is growing and I know the Savior lives and that he is pleased that we are here trying to do His will among the Brazilian people.  We feel his love and his protection.  At this Christmas time of year, may we all remember that Jesus Christ is the real gift of Christmas.  Without His selfless sacrifice, Christmas would be nothing but commercial.  He is everything that matters.  I love you all and hope these letters are enjoyable to read.  They are my diary.

Love you all very much,

Elder Sonderegger

*NOTE – Please don’ send any packages to us.  There is a huge problem with import taxes.  I just spent an hour and a half with Sister Cox trying to get a package out of the post office across the street.  The value of the package was above $60.00 and it cost her $80.00 to get it out.  It was supposed to come to our distribution center here, but as soon as the government sees the value, it goes through a horrible bureaucratic process.  We can’t afford to do that, so in the goodness of your hearts, if you want to send something, just deposit some money in our PayPal account.  That sounds awful, but it is just the truth of the situation here.   Elder DePaula had some medicine he needed sent to him from the USA and the gov’t x-rayed the pkg. and determined it was illegal drugs and sent it back.  Makes no sense, but that is what happens.  The missionary couples are quite upset over this.  I am going to talk to Elder Mazzagardi about it and see if we can get some instruction or ideas of what we can do if anything.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

December 2, 2015

Hi My Dear Family,

Today has been a good day thus far.  When we are busy, we are so much happier.  Sitting around gets old real fast.  We so appreciated the last few emails from our family as they were inspired and really helped us a lot.  Grandma Benson said something about our sacrifice and then said, “But that is what it is all about.”  That really struck a chord in me and it made me think that it is ok to sacrifice, it is part of coming closer to Christ.  So reading the emails was a jump start to our day (Wed).  Then right after we got over here to work, I heard a familiar voice, very familiar.  It was Elder Mazzagardi standing by the elevator next to our office talking to Jr. and looking for us.  I jumped up and well, it was neat for mom and I to see him.  I guess that Jr. told him that we had been here for over two weeks and he hadn’t seen us, so he came this morning.  Mom showed him our family calendar and he enjoyed that. 

I met a young man who has been an exchange student in the USA and wants to return and study and play soccer.  We had a good visit.  His name is Matheus.  He isn’t a member yet, but I have contacted Southern Virginia University about him.  He is taking the SAT this Saturday, so he must be serious about it.  I then talked to a Stake Pres. about one of his bishops.  It was a sad but promising story.  He lost his job, decided to go back to school for some better training, and is currently working as a Motoboy, the guys on motorcycles who take things to different businesses, etc. all over the city.  A pretty humbling job for a man with a family, but he is doing his best and as the stake pres. said, “At least he is bringing in some income.”  He has been released as bishop as he just didn’t have the time.  I think that was the right thing to do as family must come first.  I have never been without a job like that.  It would be frightening to experience.  I am gaining a lot of empathy for the economic situation down here.  Many members and other Brazilians in the very south are finding jobs in Uruguay, that according to another stake president I visited with from the city of Uruguaiania uin RG do Sul.  

Yesterday, Sister Cox who gives counsel to the young missionaries was talking to me about missionaries who are so hyper because they don’t have any outlet.  I told her that I could write up a fitness program that could be done in their apartments with no special equipment that might help.  She is already using it and sending it to the missionaries.  I wrote a out a very detailed workout, two pages, and I felt great because I was doing something I enjoy and also that it might actually bless someone’s life. 

We also went to the 9:00 a.m. temple session.  Mom sat with Sister Hale.  It was wonderful to go back to the temple.  It felt like coming home with no cares in the world but to be in the House of the Lord.  I met a man who was wiping his eye in the hallway and I asked him if he hurt himself and he said, “No, just emotion.”  Some time ago he met a sister whose first husband had been abusive to her and they divorced.  This sister then met a wonderful man, but she was sealed to the other man.  The temple official just happened to sit by her and hear the story.  He directed her to visit the Temple President.  So, she just received from the First Presidency a cancellation of the first sealing so that now she can be married to a really good man.  That was a very emotional experience for the temple officiator.  On top of that, I found out that I served in Penha here in SP exactly when this man was a member of the ward and right when he first got married.  We all knew the same people from Penha but didn’t remember each other.  I told him to chalk it up to age and 42 years since Penha.  But it was neat to talk to him.

I love all of you very much.  I know the Lord lives and directs this work.  He helps us help others every single day and especially if we are in tune and listening to His promptings.  It happens every single day and is unmistakeable.

Love You All Eternally,


Sunday, November 29, 2015

November 29, 2015

Hi everyone,

It has been a slow week for us at the office.  There just isn't a whole lot for us to do right now.  That does make our days drag on a bit.  We are trying to come up with a plan to start a food initiative somewhere.  I've been doing some research to see where the greatest need has been as far as fast offering help for food.  Maybe we will learn some new things this week.  I sure hope so.  One thing I have been doing is learning Excel and Powerpoint.  The fellow who does the presentations will be leaving in Feb. to move to Utah so I will probably be doing those reports.  I haven't ever had a need to use Excel or Powerpoint so this is a learning experience for me.  I just hope that we will have the opportunity to get out and do something that seems more productive to me.

We have had an interesting thing happen twice today, once this morning and again just now.  All of a sudden we heard tons of cars honking their horns and there were two big dump trucks moving in the line.  Just now it looked like a lot of the cars had something on top of them, like a Christmas Tree or a pile of bananas or something.  I couldn't quite tell what it was but it looked like it could have been either.  We have no idea what that all means.

One interesting thing in the Brazilian culture is people selling their wares.  When we were in Campinas years ago we would wake up almost every morning to the sound of Beethoven's "Fur Elise."  That was the gas man selling his tanks of gas and if you were in need of a new tank (for your stove) you would run out and flag him down.  Here it is the "egg man."  We have heard him every Sat. repeating over and over and over on a loud speaker, "40 eggs for only 10 reieis (that is the Brazilian money, plural for "real" which sounds like "hayall"); fresh from the farm. 10 reieis for 40 eggs," etc.,etc.  It gets a little old after a while.

We had a fun weekend.  On Friday evening we went into the city center and went to a shopping mall to see the Christmas decorations.  I've never seen anything like them before!  WOW!!  That is about all there is to it.  It was awesome!  That mall is in a very rich area of the city. It was very fancy.  One thing for sure is that we really couldn't afford to buy anything in it!  We did go to dinner there to a really nice place.  We did't get home until about 10:00.  It was a lot of fun.

Yesterday we went back into the city to a park called Ibiripreira and rented bicycles and rode all around the park.  It is probably the equivalent of Central Park in New York.  There were thousands of people there walking, riding bikes, scooters, skateboarders, jogging, working out on equipment that was everywhere, just enjoying the day.  It was a lot of fun and absolutely beautiful!  You just can't believe the flowers down here.  They are gorgeous!  It was a beautiful park.  We went there years ago with our family but we went to the museum under the big obelisk.  Our kids probably will remember, well probably Emily does.  :-)

When we got back we were just going to go back to our apartment and do some cleaning and go to the store, but we got talked into going to Embu dos Artes.  It is a little town or suburb of Sao Paulo that reminds me a whole lot of West Yellowstone, Jackson, Park City, etc.  Get the picture?  There are tons of little shops selling gifts and souvenirs.  It was fun to walk around.  We did buy a couple of little things for our apartment to spruce it up a bit.

On our way home we stopped at a big store like Costco.  The other couple we were with had a car for the day so we stopped there and picked up some things that we can't get at our grocery store.  It works out a lot better going in a car rather than trying to bring your stuff home on the bus.  We are getting good at carrying our groceries home in a little cart and bags.  We were lucky to find a cart as soon as we did.  It sure helps out a lot.  

There are some really interesting stores right around here.  We like to go there.  When we need something for the house we go to FiFo's.  It is crammed tight from floor to ceiling and the isles are so narrow that you have to turn sideways if someone else wants to get by!  We have found some good things over there.  They have just about everything you can think of as far as household goods.

It was a really good day.  The other missionary couples are really neat.  Not all of them go out and see the sites, but we are going to do it.  Riding the bus is an adventure in and of itself!  If you are 60 or over, you get to ride for free.  Since I am almost there (two more weeks, aaaaahhhhh!) they let me also ride for free.

We have a really good ward here.  The members are really strong.  There is a man who teaches the Gospel Doctrine class in English for the missionaries and anyone else who is visiting and wants to get something out of the lesson.  This man is one of the translators for the church.  He teaches at the University of Sao Paulo as his regular job but then he translates for any of the General Authorities who come down here.  He did the final checking on the Book of Mormon a few years ago when it was put into the triple combination and cross-referenced to all the scriptures.  He did the D&C and most of the Pearl of Great Price.  He has some little translating devices for all of us to use during our meetings and that is really nice.  Either he or one of his students, who is a member, does the translating for us.  It is a miracle what modern technology can do.

I have attached some photos for you today.  The first is the view out of our living room window. 


Monday, November 23, 2015

November 22, 2015 (from Mom)

Hi all,
This has been a good week.  It's amazing how one week can make a difference in how you are adjusting to things.  I really think that we have done really well.  We are getting to know the other Sr. missionaries and some of the other members who we work with.  It was a good feeling to be able to know how long it takes to get to church and exactly where we needed to go when we got there.  It will be good tomorrow to know where to go and that we have our work stations all set up.

Right now we have been doing (mostly me) lots of computer inputting all about fast offerings.  I hope that we will be able to do other things working with people but I think that we will.  We met with a couple of people during the week who told us about some welfare initiatives that they would like us to be working on.  They are:  "Clean water," and the "Benson Food Initiative."  We told them that that was very fitting since I am a Benson!  It sounds like we will be doing some traveling around the country at times.  It may not be till next year but we might do some traveling soon.  We have a meeting at 8:00 on Mondays so maybe we will learn more about it tomorrow.

I'm just glad that I've had things to do to keep busy.  One of the other senior sisters told me that they got here last year at about the same time and she didn't have anything to do for 2 1/2 months!  I've been busy every day and I come home tired.  It is really something that sitting at the computer can wear you out like that.

Brazil is an interesting country.  I don't think that there are any zoning laws.  If someone wants to open up a store in the neighborhood, they just do.  There are homes, apartments, schools, dr. offices, restaurants, meat markets, bakeries, dance studios, hospitals, etc., etc. all thrown together.  I guess that is nice for those of us who don't have a car as we can walk a short distance and get anything we need.  Also there are no j-walking laws here either.  It is kind of funny to see so many people, young and old, j-walking.  I'm really glad that I had the experience to be here 19 years ago as I know it has helped me get used to things quickly.  The sights and smells are just totally different than they are in Rexburg, or pretty much anywhere in the U.S. The people are very friendly and helpful.

I am trying to be more brave speaking Portuguese.  Ferron didn't come in until the afternoon on Thursday as his back had been so bad in the night, so I had to talk to Bro. Gaspar, who doesn't speak any English, to find out what I was supposed to do to help him.  I was able to speak to him and we understood each other.  Hopefully I'll get better each day.  It is when I get put in a situation where I haven't had time to rehearse something in my head where I mess up badly.  Actually, I think I mess up badly when I do have time to rehearse it in my head as well!  ☺

I can't believe that it is Thanksgiving this week.  It sure doesn't feel like Thanksgiving down here.  The sr. missionaries are getting together for dinner that day, but I don't know what time.  We are going to another couple's house who are here working for the church as the legal counsel.  We will have to go by taxi I think. It should be fun and it will be nice to not have to be alone on that day.

We love you all very much.  Hope everyone is doing well and we wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!!