Monday, May 30, 2016


Dad trying to get a poncho on.

Success with the poncho!

Maze of buildings in the city center.

First Van Gogh that Mom has actually liked.

Brazilian friends with Dad

At a farm near Campinas

Balancing rock in the country

Termite mound

Strange-looking cows

Monkeys playing in the trees...not in a zoo!

Making sugar cane juice

Courtyard of the apartment building

In honor of our old cat, Otis

Missionary group, minus three

May 29, 2016

Dear Family,

I guess it's about time that I wrote!  As you all know, we are back in Brazil and we are busy!  I guess before we came home I was pretty discouraged because we just weren't very busy and I felt like I was pretty much wasting my time.  It's very different for the senior sisters than it is for their husbands, at least in a country that isn't English speaking.  I've tried hard to learn the language so that I can contribute more, but it is very difficult.  I made a goal in Jan. to speak to someone every day.  That has helped a lot.  It hasn't always worked out but I am trying to go out of my way to say something to someone.  They always appreciate it when they can see that I am trying.  Most of the other senior sister missionaries don't even try to communicate.

The day we left, Dad/Ferron talked to Fernando (our boss) and the other men on our welfare team and told them that we had to have more to do or else we weren't coming back.  Well it must have worked because since we've been back we have been SWAMPED!!  That's good!  We have been very busy every day and we have a lot going on the next several weeks as well.

Last week Fernando told us that we can go anywhere in the country that has a need and look for new projects to open or do some training in fast offerings.  We are going up to the northeast this Friday to look to open a quail raising project.  The Stake President up there (Petrolina in the state of Pernambuco) has 50 families lined up who want to be in the project.  Fernando wants us to start with 5 families but apparently a Brazilian missionary welfare couple had already promised them up to 50 families.  Dad has been in touch with the Stake Pres. and is working things out.  If it looks like they are willing to put in the hard work then we will go ahead with 50 families.  Quail eggs are very popular down here.  We will leave on the 3rd and get back on the 6th.

On June 11th Sister Burke and I are giving a presentation to a stake in the center of the city about dealing with the refugees that are coming.  Europe is pretty much closing its doors and so now there are a lot of Syrians coming here.  It is actually safer for them to fly to Brazil than it is to go by rickety boat to Turkey or Greece and the cost is similar.  There is a Catholic Priest who has a "rescue mission" in the city and he is helping lots of people.  We are going to meet him on Tues and see what we can do to help.  

Fernando met with the President of the Rotary Club here in Sao Paulo and told her (I always thought Rotary was a man's club but now anyone can join) about our presentation.  She told him that she wants us to present it to her club as well!  There is a lot of stuff from our church leaders in it so we'll see what happens.
On June 24th we are leaving to go down to the south to see about starting a new gardening project.  Also to meet a sister who we have become familiar with via email from her bishop.  She lives is terrible conditions and is being helped through the fast offering fund. We will be gone for a few days.  I guess that the Stake President has talked about us (or at least Dad) in Stake Conference almost as if we were General Authorities!

When we got back, Elder Holland, Elder Maynes and Bishop Waddell from the Presiding Bishopric were here doing training and checking on things.  Elder Holland spoke at a fireside on that Sunday evening and we were glad that we could be there.  He started out saying, "Irmaos, and Irmas.  Guarana.  Maracuja. Porto Alegre. That is the extent of my Portuguese!"  (Guarana is a soft drink and Maracuja is Passion Fruit)  Bishop Waddell spoke to the workers at the Area office so we got to attend and it was really good.  He came around the office later in the day and we met him.  He is probably 6'6"-7".  We sort of met Elder Maynes as well, in the stairwell.  He and Elder Costa were coming up one level as we were going down.  I said, "Tudo bem, ola.  Oh I mean hello!"  He turned around and was laughing!  Elder Costa saw Dad and said, "You're back!  We were missing our coach!"  That made Dad feel good.

As you can see, I now have more things to write about and not just fun stuff.  We have done some fun things since we've been back.  We went to a special art display from the Museu D'Orsay and it was fabulous!  We went out near Campinas last Thurs. (it was a holiday here) and went to a "farm" that had been turned into sort of a resort.  There was playground equipment, a zip line, tractor rides, a puppet show and the main event was a delicious brunch.  Some of our Brazilian friends took us.  We then drove out through the countryside and it was just plain refreshing.  On our way home we drove into the city to Parque Taquaral near where we used to live 20 years ago.  Our family used to walk down to the park quite often

I have quite a few pictures to send as I haven't been able to send any for a while.  We got a new camera while we were home and it works much better.

We sure love you all very much.  We are glad to be back but it was almost harder to leave the second time.  


P.S.  These pictures are of a city called Holambra.  It is a Dutch community in case you can't tell.  They raise a lot of flowers there that they sell all over Brazil.  It is too hot though to grow tulips!

We're Back!

Boa Tarde Família,

It has been about two months since I last wrote.  We had an English class about five days before we left with our four students.  They were very sad to see us go and we were sad to leave them.  We gave each of them a Book of Mormon which they were happy to get.  They had a lot of questions about the Church that day even though we had never talked about it in class.  It started out with one of them saying, “So your church doesn’t believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God.”  Wow, never heard that before.  I just smiled and said that it was exactly the opposite and we proceeded to have a really nice conversation.  It was very enjoyable to talk about the gospel with them.  Just yesterday, here in the offices, we saw Jim and we were happy to see each other.  Big abraço.  Between Sunday at church, Sunday at the meeting with Elder Holland, and Monday and Tuesday here at the offices, we have been squeezed almost to death.  Never had so many hugs.  Some people in tears to see us come back to Brazil.  Can´t help but love these people who are so full of love.  We are getting settled in and back into a routine, and I am serious about the hugs.  I will check for bruising tonight when we get home.

We had pretty good flights.  From Idaho Falls to Salt Lake was great and the view was spectacular.  In Salt Lake, our flight to New York got delayed because of weather conditions there.  While we were waiting, I saw Elder McAllister and his wife walking my way as I was moving around from being tired of sitting.  They were very friendly.  When he saw my name tag he said, “Sonderegger, I knew a Sonderegger who taught at BYU.”  I said, “That would be my uncle Emory”, and Elder McAllister remembered then.  He is coming to São Paulo in June.  He said, “We will probably see you there.”

It was hard to say goodbye to all our family.  It was really hard to say goodbye to Emily and my mother in law.  Grandma Benson is such a special, special woman.  She is such a doer and constantly trying to look out for others.  I look at her and think that she is always so busy that she doesn't have time to get old.  At 90, she isn't and that is no joke.  I love her very much and it has been just as hard on me to say goodbye to her as it has been for Paula.  We love her so very much.  We have done a lot of fun things together over the years and it has been special to have her with us on our trips to Utah and Yellowstone and Twin Falls.  We need to all pray hard for her that she keeps being the same and that her health will continue to be great.  In 11 and ½ months, we plan on taking her somewhere.  Emily living at home and taking care of everything while we are gone has a big job.  She got the garden planted and we are excited for her.  Gardening is a big part of our family.  It always was when I was a boy.  Everyone in our neighborhood had a big garden.   There is nothing quite like fresh out of the garden.  Today, we went to the house of brother and sister Torres.  They are working to get a garden going which will help out with their food budget.  Along with that, sister Torres showed us her sewing project.  She is making activity books for church meetings and she is very creative.  She has battled cancer, but is doing well now and she seemed very pleased that we were interested in her little business.  We plan on buying a book or two.  If anyone would like one, get in contact with us and I am sure she will make you one.  We haven´t been down on the coast yet, but Fernando Souza, our boss, showed us some pictures of the gardens and they look great.  Can´t wait to go see them in person.

We had great Sunday meetings.  The bishop made sure that everyone knew at Sacrament Meeting that the Sondereggers were back in town.  Our priesthood meeting was about the law of tithing and we had a great discussion.  There were some questions about what we should pay tithing on.  I have had those same questions in my life and there will always be questions, but I think the best answer when deciding what should be tithed is to “Be generous with the Lord, because He is generous to us.”  We left our apartment to go back to the church a little before 4:00 p.m.  We had tickets to hear Elder Holland speak.  It was fun to see so many from the office and they were so happy to see us back.  Marina Munhoz Gavarret came running up to us.  We remember when she was just 12 years old and living in a home just two blocks from the temple.  Now she is married to the son of Elder Gavarret of the Seventy and living here in SP.  She has four children I think.  We saw her last in Provo 15 years ago when she had her first baby and now that baby is a young woman heading to the United States.  Her father Sergio was my companion when I worked in Penha in the city of SP. 

May 23, 2016

Dear Family,

Three weeks ago today, I along with Antonio Guerra and his son Leonardo, were sitting on some boulders on a hill in Yellowstone Park watching Old Faithful and Castle geysers go off at the same time.  It was awesome.  Now, here we are back in São Paulo and Antonio works just right above me on the 4th floor.  He came down today to talk to me and had the same image in his mind.  He and his wife Vania are taking us to some cool tourist place out by the Campinas Temple.  This email is the second half of one I wrote last week but didn't get it finished.

We enjoyed hearing Elder Holland speak at our chapel here in Morumbí.  He talked a lot about families and he also talked about our trials, challenges and fears.  Then he said, "Everything is not perfect here as we live in a telestial world, but it will be on the other side."  He also spoke to those who would like to be married and have children and he said specifically, "I promise you in the name of the Lord that you will marry and you will have children."  He talked about his wife almost dying in 2014 of what the doctors called 'cryptic pneumonia' for which there is no cure.  He told about the young doctor, a returned missionary who served in Brazil, coming out to him with tears streaming down his face and saying to Elder Holland, "Sister Holland is dying."  He then talked very briefly, saying that he could not relate some things but that miracles happen and there are ministering angels.  He indicated that just now, Sister Holland is able to travel with him again.  One of Elder Holland's dearest friends when he was the president of BYU was Clyn Barrus of Sugar City, my hero and neighbor across the street.  Look up the talk of Elder Holland in the 2008 Ensign and you will ready about the ministry of angels.  It was Clyn's father LaMar who was my angel at age four, when I fell into a ditch and was about to go under the culvert and drown.  Elder Holland has a great sense of humor too.  When he first got up to the pulpit, he blew us a kiss and then motioned us to sit down.  He then said, "Irmões e irmás, guaraná, maracujá, Porto Alegre, and that is the end of my Portuguese."  He said when he first started dating Sister Holland that there were so many boyfriends you had to take a ticket and stand in line.  Sister Holland talked about how shy and timid she has been her whole life and how hard she has had to fight that, even now.  But she talked about how Elder Holland constantly was building her up like telling her what a great cook she was (to which she said, I'm not a good cook and I don' like to cook).  He finally began sitting down with her and really studying the Book of Mormon with her and explaining many things to her and it totally changed her life.  It gave her the power and confidence to hang in there.  

We are very busy.  We will be flying to Petrolina in the northeast on June 3rd and coming home June 6th.  We are going to visit the stake presidency and get to know their proposed project of raising quail.  Quail eggs are very popular here in Brazil and you find them everywhere, restaurants, supermarkets and small stores.  Petrolina is a fruit producing area and ships out tons of fruit to Europe and the United States every day.  Everything is irrigation and Petrolina is like an oasis in the desert.  It sits on the São Francisco River which runs into the Lake Sobradinho, the 12th largest man-made lake in the world.  We have several other places to go like Jundiaí this Wed. to visit two stake presidents and talk about the Benson Food Program.  We are also emailing and calling bishops and branch presidents and discussing the blessings of the fast offering with them.   We have 30 units assigned to us and Ivan and Julio have the others.  It will keep us hopping.  We will be going south to Cruz Alta in Rio Grande do Sul soon to also discuss growing gardens.  

We had a great devotional with Bishop Waddell of the Presiding Bishopric on Wed, May 18th and he came to our office and visited with us for a few minutes.  We enjoyed that.  He talked about how not all is well in Zion.  There are 1.3 million members in Brazil, but only 200,000 are attending Sunday meetings regularly, so there is a lot of work to do.  We ran into a resting member in the restaurant we ate at Friday night.  He said he just didn't have time for church things in his life.  We told him to come back and that he would always be welcomed by the members.  We have talked to a few like him and it reminds me of a scripture that we should also take to heart:  "They were slow to hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; therefore, the Lord their God is slow to hearken unto their prayers, to answer them in the day of their trouble.  In the day of their peace they esteemed lightly my counsel; but, in the day of their trouble, of necessity they fell after me."  I need to show more gratitude to the Lord and not take His counsel lightly.  

Saturday we went to the Bank of Brazil Cultural Center in the old city center.  They have closed off many streets permanently to traffic and so it was like walking through a jungle of high-rise buildings to get there.  There is lots of security and no problems.  We went to an art exhibit and we saw lots of famous paintings of Van Gogh and Monet and many others I can't remember.  We saw a technique called 'Pointillism' (Shelley will be proud of me for saying that) which was really awesome to see.  It is painting with distinct dots of color applied in patterns to form an image.  It was developed by Georges Seurat and Paul Signac in 1886 and we saw lots of their paintings.  We then ate at Café Girondino which has been there since the end of the 19th century.  They have great food and service.  I had gnocchi, fried mandioca (fried manioc root which is better than french fries if done right) and arroz doce with cinnamon.  Mom had some beirute sandwiches which she didn't like too much.

Sunday, I was talking to the stake president about some things and then to a young friend, Leo Morais when I saw a man I had seen before in a wheel chair in the chapel.  I had talked to him before but had no idea who he was.  I asked Leo who it was as I had a feeling about him.  Leo said, "Oh, that is brother Kraft."  Brother Kraft is the man who I have told the story of many times to my family, who came to the mission home when I had a temperature of 105 degrees (pneumonia) and gave me a blessing and a massage to break the fever.  I had seen him in 1993 and was able to finally say thanks to him.  I thought he would have died years ago as he had heart problems then.  But, there he was and I went over and hugged him.  He has Alzheimers and doesn't say much but he loves to have people come and talk to him.  I told his daughter the story and she was dumbfounded.  She said, "I need to go get mom."  So I told the story to his wife and it was just a very special experience.  I look forward to talking to him even more now as I know who he is.  He lives in the same apartment complex as we do and all this time, I had no idea who he was.  Why these things happen all the time is a mystery to me, but I will take them.  We love all of you.  We love the Lord and are trying our best to do what He would have us do.

Love You All,