Thursday, March 17, 2016

March 15, 2016

Dear Family,

I haven’t written for a while and I had a little time.  Just a little while ago (Tuesday, March 15th), Elder Sitati of the Seventy stepped off the elevator right by us.  So, I went out and said hi to him.  I have wanted to ask him a question ever since he became a member of the Seventy, but knew that chance wouldn’t happen.  Well, I asked him, “Do you have a brother named Joseph.”  He replied, “I am Joseph, you mean Robert.”  I was a little embarrassed, but I said that”Yes”, I wanted to know if Robert Sitati was his brother.  He said that he was.  I explained that I had wondered for a long time because I tried to recruit Robert Sitati, the national shot put champion of Kenya to come to Ricks College.  As we visited, I had not realized that Elder Sitati who was then a stake president was working on the other end to help his brother get a visa.  To make a long story short, we could never get his visa approved.  He was a very good shot putter, around 60 feet.  Elder Sitati related to me that President Faust took a real liking to Robert and became very good friends.  Robert still has not joined the Church, but maybe in the future he will.  Elder Sitati took out his I-phone and said, “I want a picture of the man who tried to recruit my brother so I can send it to him.”  So we got a picture with he and mom and I.  It was a very unexpected experience.  We just continue to have these kind of experiences.  

Took mom back to the dr. to see how shoulder was doing.  She is a lot better but may get an injection when we come home.  The doctor was a real nice fellow, very friendly and helpful.  He told us about two really modern physical therapy places in São Paulo.  One is just up the  street at Morumbí Stadium where the São Paulo Futebol Clube plays.  We may give them a try.  It is set up for the athletes, but the general population can go there too.  That’s the thing, Paul Dye in Rexburg was so good with me on the last surgery and got my shoulder in great shape.  Paul has patented some ‘torture toys’ that he uses.  I have kidded him that he has every kind of torture equipment imaginable.  It sure does work though.  I want to get started with him and then we will see.  We are not excited to come home because it is too early and we are not done here.  Now having said that, we are excited to see all of you, but we hope you understand what we are saying.  We will not be released and I can tell you that after our weekly meeting this morning, we will have plenty to keep us busy at home.  I have had about a 1000 people tell me all the reasons that I hurt my shoulder again and if I do everything I have heard, I will soon weigh 400 lbs. and be ready to die.  I understand what I can and can’t do better than anyone.  So your question is, “Then why did you do it again.”  A single pushup isn’t really a cause for alarm as something that tears a rotator cuff (manguito rotador in Portuguese).  A rotator cuff is such a fragile tendon as you get older that it can tear for no reason, in other words it tears just because.  The older you get, the more chance you have to tear it.  It is a common injury for anyone.  But I will dial things down again and be more careful.  I have to be able to golf still.  Dr. Liljenquist told me over the phone that the tear is not where he fixed it before, so that is good, really good.  This will only be surgery #8 since fall of 2009.  It isn’t very fun for me either and the PT is really hard, very painful.  But I have taught myself how to remove my mind away from pain, and it works.  It makes the PT sessions a lot less painful and a lot more productive.  The natural instinct of the body is to fight back, but the therapists tell me they can tell when they are manipulating my shoulder when I relax, because they immediately get 10 degrees more of ROM.  Anyhow, we intend to enjoy our family when we get home, keep busy with the missionary work, and then go back. 

Last Friday after we learned that we needed to go home, the very first thing I did was to go see Elder Costa, the Area President.  I told him how concerned I was that the Missionary Dept. would make us stay home.  He told me not to worry as we were needed in Brazil.  A ton of people have expressed their hope that we will return.  Some have said they already miss us.  We have many friends here.  The bishopric has some plans for when we return and they really want mom to keep leading the choir.  She does so well and in Portuguese.  The sisters are missing her especially. 

I have had some very spiritual experiences in translating the missionary recommendations.  If I pray to have the spirit, it makes a big difference.  I can keep typing many times without stopping and often, definitions of words I have never seen come into my mind.  That is the absolute truth.  These recommendations go to Salt Lake and to the Council of the Twelve who make the calls.  I want the translation to be correct and readable.  I rarely type a sentence word for word.  I see that meaning of the sentence in Portuguese and then type what we would say in English.  I remember one of my track athletes, Nixon Kasue from Kenya who was asked to translate the Book of Mormon into the Swahili language.  He told me how difficult it was and that if he wasn’t very close to the spirit, he didn’t get much accomplished.  Nixon told me how much more he admired the prophet Joseph Smith and the very short time it took him to translate the Book of Mormon from the plates.   I get feeling the same when I translate.  Some days are better than others. 

It is amazing to me how many of these missionaries have no support from home, even parents upset with them.  Many have little or no money.  Some have been able to save quite a bit but that is rare.  Many come from single parent families and many some do not know the name of their father.  But, they go to their bishops and they request the opportunity to serve the Lord.  They have unbelievable talents and testimonies and I have read many.  They have unbelievable things that have happened in their lives, many types of illness, injury, abuse and tragedy.  But, they go on a mission anyway and they succeed in most cases.  Some get so excited that they send in their papers too early and we have to remind them that they must be 18 or 19.  Many sisters are serving in Brasil.  Brasil has more native missionaries than Americans, something I never believed could happen here.  There are 7-8,000 missionaries in Brasil alone.

We went to Praia Grande out at the Litoral one last time.  We went to the chapel and met with some who are going to begin growing their own food, to eat and to sell.  They seemed excited.  We bought good gardening tools here in SP as well as seeds of every kind.  They are buying the topsoil and cement blocks down there.  They had brought a sack of topsoil and six cement blocks.  They lined them up and then opened the sack and poured it inside the blocks so we could see how much one sack fills up (44 lb. sacks).  My calculations were way off, so I added several hundred more sacks.  They can buy a sack of really nice topsoil for about $.40 cents a bag.  You may wonder why in the world they need topsoil.  They live in home built on what was once a giant bog (brejo).  The government brought debris from where it had been dumped and filled in all the bog so homes could be built.  That was good for the homes but bad for planting gardens.  So the topsoil will be about a foot or more deep in the raised garden beds.  We talked about Lynn and when we raised our fast offering because Pres. Benson asked the membership of the Church to do so.  We had a ton of medical bills and couldn’t afford it really.  But we did anyway and the blessings came.  The members listened carefully and were grateful we shared the story with them.  I told them if they raised their fast offering by 1 REAL (25 cents) a month, that the Lord would bless them in many ways.  Sometimes it is in ways we cannot see, such as better health, protection, opportunity, etc.  It was a good meeting and they promised to send pictures when their gardens are done and plants are growing.  We are excited for them.  Irmão Ivan told me that he plans on saving 50-70 Reais a week off his food bill and that he plans on expanding his gardens and selling his produce to local businesses.  So what Ivan has learned is simply “The Way of the Lord”, which is to work to become self-sufficient.

Stake Conference on Sunday, March 12-13 was wonderful.  Elder Aidukaitus of the Seventy and the Area Presidency spoke.  His Sunday talk was about self-sufficiency.  He told a story of a place where the shrimp fisherman would throw away the broken and damaged shrimp and the seagulls came by the hundreds to get a free meal.  After many years, the shrimpers moved to a different place.  The seagulls began dying by the hundreds because they could not get shrimp for themselves even though they were right in front of them in the sea.  They didn’t know how to take care of themselves.  That story came from a talk by Pres. Marion G. Romney.  Elder Aidukaitus laughs at his own jokes and he has an awesome laugh.  I really got a kick out of seeing his human side.  I was going through a door to sit down and all of a sudden there he was and he stuck out his hand and said, “How are you elder.”  It was really neat.  His father immigrated to Brazil from Scotland.  He was a coal miner and worked very hard to make a living.  Elder Aidukaitus said that his father never asked for or took any money from anyone or any organization.  He believed you work for what you get.  It made a great impression on Elder Aidukaitus.  He said something really funny on Sat. night.  He indicated that he was there on assignment from the First Presidency.  He then said, “ I wonder if they are ever sitting at their desk and say, I wonder if he went to his assignment.”  He laughed hard as did all the members.  You probably had to be there.

One last thing.  Since we have been on our mission, mom and I have grown closer than ever before.  We have to rely on each other a lot more.  We help each other out in many ways.  We love each other more than ever in our lives.   We have no doubt that the Lord watches over us.  Coming back to SP from the coast, I was driving and we ran into a massive rain storm.  We got in a 10 mile or more long traffic jam.  What made it bad was that there were hundreds of trucks coming from the port of Santos to bring their cargo to SP.  It was awful driving.  An ambulance came up behind me honking and lights flashing to get out of the way.  My choice was to go to the left into a deep bog or to try and fit between two large trucks.  I finally squeezed over in a tiny space between trucks but as soon as the ambulance went by, I moved back over.  The rain came in sheets all night long.  Many places were flooded to the top of their cars.  About twenty people died by drowning or by landslides.  We were blessed.  I love your mother very much.  I could not have ever married anyone her equal.  She is patient, beautiful, talented, has a strong testimony, is a great copilot, she loves the Lord, and she is a tough cookie.  I owe her a lot.  I hope I can treat her always the way she deserves to be treated.  We are loving our mission.  Things are so much better and very busy.  Too bad we have to come home, but we have a lot to do while we are there.  We love you all very much.  We fly out on the 21st from SP to Atlanta, then to Salt Lake and then into Idaho Falls.  You are all in our prayers and we love you all unconditionally.  We have a great family and we feel your love and support.

Love You All,


Sunday, March 13, 2016

An update...

Hi all,

Well sometimes things just don't go as planned.  We learned on Thursday that Dad/Ferron has a torn rotator cuff tendon and will require surgery.  He had a phone meeting with his dr. in Idaho Falls who said that it would need to be done soon as the longer he waits the harder it is to repair correctly and it has already been two months.  He indicated that we might be able to find someone down here to do it.

Then we went over to visit with our senior missionary medical advisor and he said that he thought we could find someone down here to do it as there are very good doctors here.  Elder Hart was a Pediatrician/Neonatologist.  He suggested that we call a Bro. Swensen who used to be the medical adviser down here (and actually lived in the same apt. that we live in now) and is now on the missionary medical committee in Salt Lake (or something like that).  He was also an orthopedic surgeon.  He told Dad that Brazil does have some very good doctors but that shoulder doctors aren't one of them!  He said that we need to go home and have his doctor in IF do the surgery because he knows Dad's shoulder.  Also the PT is at a much higher level back home.  I've been going to PT for my shoulder for the last week and their facilities are pretty primitive compared to home.  It has helped me but I'm not so sure how successful they could be with a shoulder surgery rehabilitation.  

Anyway, we are now in the "trying to figure out what to do next" phase.  We are just right on the verge of getting our projects started and new possibilities are popping up right and left, it seems.  I know that we won't be home this week.  We have been able to purchase the tools and seeds for our project on the coast and we have to get those delivered and get them going before we can go.  We are hoping that we can continue our computer work at home and stay involved that way.

It certainly isn't what we had hoped for but we have to move on.  Dad talked to Elder Costa on Friday and was told that we are needed down here and that he has friends in the missionary department and he would see to it that we can come back.  It is very disappointing for us to have to leave.  Things were just starting to really pick up for us, especially for me.

We started teaching an English class a few weeks ago and it is really fun.  I hope that our students can attend one of the other classes.  I am leading our ward choir and we are working on a special number for Easter and now I'm sure that we won't be here for that.  When we do come back, some of the other missionaries will have finished their missions and will be gone.  I'm already sad about that.  We have gotten to be a very close-knit group.  We love them all very much.  There are 17 of us down here.  We are the youngest couple although I'm not the youngest sister but Dad is the youngest Elder.

Grandpa Sonderegger used to say, "Cheer up, things could get worse.  So I cheered up and sure enough, things got worse!"  Well, I guess that we will be seeing you or at least some of you soon.  Hope is all well and good with everyone.  We love you all very much.


Saturday, March 5, 2016

February 27, 2016

Dear Family,

We have had a good week and a busy week.  Last Saturday we had a car, so we drove about 3 miles up to Makro, a huge retail supermarket.  They have good prices and a lot of things you can buy in bulk.  The shelves are loaded and in some places go to the ceiling 20' high.  You wouldn't think there is a serious recession here, but sadly, there is.  We don't see the people most affected by this downslide in the economy because they can't afford to shop for groceries where we do.  We got a cartao at Makro, a membership for free.  We just had to show our documentos.  So we started shopping and a few minutes later I heard some English which is very rare here even in Sao Paulo.  I turned and saw a couple and at first I spoke to them in Portuguese but they gave me a blank look, so I asked them if they spoke English and they did.  They are from Singapore and the fellow works for Singapore Airlines in an office building down by Avenida Paulista which is a financial hub of the city and all of Brasil.  We talked and they were really friendly.  The fellow said they had given him a little piece of paper and he showed it to me.  It was just a single day pass to shop.  I told him and he said they would like to get a membership but didn't know how to or if they could afford it.  We said that they were free.  I asked him if he would like to get one today and he said yes.  I said, "Well, lets go over to that desk and get one for you."  He said, "How's your Portuguese." and I replied that it was fluent.  There were two people there behind the desk and nobody in line but they just ignored us so I said, "Da licencinha."  Which is kind of a slang way of nicely saying, "Could you maybe help me here."  When I block an aisle at some of the small stores with 3' wide aisles, I have women say "Da licencinha" all the time and they are just being nice.  So the two workers turned and asked what we needed and I told them.  The male employee said rather rudely, "I already gave him a one day pass."  So I replied, "He doesn't need a one day pass, he needs a membership."  "Well, he doesn't live here."  "Oh yes he does", I said, "And he works for Singapore Airlines."  "Oh".  We had a membership card for him in 3 minutes.  It was nice to be albe to help them.  They are really nice people.  I got his card and am going to get in touch with them again.  We enjoyed shopping at Makros although we got tired legs.  We made our biggest purchase in a store yet, about $81.00 dollars.  We took home a big trunk full of groceries that will last a while.  We didn't even get lost going home and my Brazilian, or I should say, my Sao Paulo driving habits are getting very good, so good that I will probably get a ticket in Rexburg when I come home.

Sunday was a great day as usual.  Sacrament meeting reminded me of our Evergreen Ward in Rexburg, such a good spirit, geat talks.  When we first got here, some people were really hard to understand in church, but now I get almost every word and it is nice.  We had been invited by the Guimaraes to speak at a stake fireside in Embu das Artes on Sunday night.  It is south of Sao Paulo about 30 minutes.  We picked up the Guimaraes (the couple went to Aracatuba with us) and then they gave us directions to the chapel.  It is a big building that even has an elevator.  The Church utilizes even small pieces of land by going up with the construction, sometimes 2 or 3 stories for a chapel.  Mom and I got introduced to everyone and then the meeting started.  Believe it or not, we didn't really have butterflies and were anxious to speak.  We were asked to speak about our pioneer heritage.  Paula spoke for ten minutes and gave a wonderful talk.  She began by asking how many had been born in the covenant; then parents who were born into the Church; then grandparents and then great grandparents.  No hands came up on 'grandparents'.  Paula and I kept raising our hands and you could hear people gasping in awe.  She then talked about Benjamin Benson and his dream about the Book of Mormon and about William Scoresby and coming to America from Australia.  I could see that the members were please that Paula was speaking in their tongue and many times when she would say a particular thing, I could see members nodding their heads, which means they were understanding what she was speaking about.  She finished by bearing her testimony in Portuguese without using any notes.  I was really pleased with her.  She did a wonderful job.  I could tell that brother and sister Guimaraies were impressed as well as the member of the stake presidency.  I spoke about John Watkins and the Martin Handcart Company and the story of the miracle of my grandma Sonderegger being born after her parents had not been able to have children for over ten years. We both made a point of telling them that they could be pioneers in their own families.  I told specifically about one of my track athletes who had been abused as a young boy as well as his sisters.  We talked one day and he wondered why the Lord didn't love him as much as he loved me.  I assured him that his parents had their free agency to choose their behaviors just like my parents and that he needed to focus on being the pioneer in his own family when that time came.  By the way, he is doing just that.

After the meeting several stayed and they kept saying over and over, "I always wanted to meet a descendant of the real pioneers who came across the plains and here you are, standing right in front of us."  We both felt a little uncomfortable being treated like celebrities because of our faithful ancestors.  Then they all wanted their picture taken with us.  The members have so much respect for the senior missionaries.  The always address us as Elder and Sister even if they don't know us.  The counselor in the stake presidency gave us both a huge bear hug as he was a big man.  We felt like we did some good and that they Lord helped us to say the right things.  We took the Guimaraies home and made it back to our apartments in spite of my terrible driving at night. Thank goodness Paula is such a good copilot.  She made a difference in us getting home safely..  It was nice to see the angel Moroni come in to our view.  

We continue to work on getting every detail set up for our gardening projects in several places.  We have finally got everything submitted to CHaS, the Church Humanitarian Department.  Hopefully we will get it all approved and then we can start buying seeds and tools, etc.  I can't wait to take these things to the families.  It will be like Christmas for us and for them.  This is not just a charity.  They have to do all the work of building their raised garden beds (their soil is poor) and then to maintain it all.  Church Welfare if handled correctly can empower people to get a fresh start and then work to become self-sufficient.  It doesn't always work out, but it does most of the time.  

Paula was in so much pain one night that I got real worried.  We went to the Leforte Hospital less than two blocks away and talked to an orthopedic surgeon.  He was really nice and listened and did some testing.  Paula ended up sitting in a room with and IV of three medications.  She was in a room of nice soft chairs and so were 7-8 other people - interesting.  She has been doing some exercise and taking some meds at night and things have improved.  Friday morning I took her a half block away to the 17th floor for some physical therapy.  The therapist, Tais, was really helpful.  She asked a lot of questions before doing anything.  I had her read my MRI results to see what her opinion was,  I have several tears in my shoulder but to what extent I don't know yet.  She asked how this all happened and I told her about the sports I played and my lifting.  When we went in for therapy she loudly announced that there was a real live American football player in the room.  Instant celebrity.  It was pretty funny.  We will be going back every day in the early morning next week.  Tais is going to get a Book of Mormon real soon.

As for my shoulder, it is weak and stiff and I have lost quite a bit of range of motion.  The hospital for some odd reason couldn't send my MRI to Dr. Liljenquist in Idaho Falls, so one of our tech guys at the Church Offices helped me send it and it worked.  Dr. Liljenquist will look at everything on Monday.  I have already talked to him once by phone.  When I had my MRI, I was treated really well.  The equipment is exactly like ours, probably made in the USA, and the test was in dollars, 106.00.  In other words about 900 less or more than in the US.  When I told a fellow how much we pay, he said, "I would have thought that ours are the most expensive."  Believe it or not, there are people around the world who come to Brasil for surgeries which they can't afford in their own countries.  One of the top shoulder surgeons here was trained at the Mayo Clinic and Princeton University, but even those trained here like at the University of Sao Paulo are well qualified.  Medicine is really good here.  Please keep us or at least our shoulders in your prayers.

One last thing.  I started getting emails from a high counselor in Manaus, Amazonas.  He was wondering about the food projects that we do.  So I have started a dialogue with him.  I told him that Paula and I have had a big garden for almost our entire married life of over 40 years.  I told him how much it helped out with the budget and how many hundreds of quarts and pints that Paula would do all summer and into the fall.  I mentioned too about the Teton Dam Flood and about dad and president Kimball.  He wrote back immediately and the first thing he wrote was, "Reading your email made me cry and cry." In other words, it must have touched his heart and he can see some hope.   He told me there are many priesthood holders in Manaus who are unemployed.  I hope I can convince Fernando to give this a go.  In my opinion, we can't just help people in the South.  The people in the north need it just as much or more.  It is really tough in the North and Northeast.  I guess time will tell.  We love and miss you all.  We love the Lord Jesus Christ and hope that our service will help other people as well as ourselves to draw closer to Hiim.

Love and Miss You All,