Monday, July 25, 2016

July 24, 2016 - Mom

Dear Family,

How are you all doing?  I don't want to repeat what Dad said in his email only that it was a fun day.  We were not planning to stay for the whole day but it was in a different location than what we thought and there wasn't a bus route that would take us home so we were stuck.  It was best that we did stay though, so that Dad could help them with the races.  I have included some pictures of the event.  They really went all out.  Our ward was in purple.  The officials were in green T-shirts.  They gave one to Dad as well.  The picture with the man in the green shirt and is waving or something is Bro. Mores from our Bishopric.  He is the one who threw up all night.  Our bishop is on the right.  They are good men.  All of our ward leaders were there and two of the three Stake Presidency members were there.  The one absent is on vacation.

I saw three boys yesterday, wearing purple shirts, who I've never seen before at church.  Well today, they were all there and two of them were helping with the sacrament!  The other boy hasn't ever come to church but he was there today.  It was neat.  The "Smith Cup" activities are continuing all this week with basketball and volleyball and maybe other things as well.  

We are very frustrated with our Petrolina project.  We hope that we can salvage it and keep everybody happy.  It's no fun being caught in the middle.  We have about three other stakes (maybe 4) who now want to start projects and we are going to go forward with EXTREME caution!!  A group of men (a bishopric) came by the office a few days ago wanting help on their project of raising fish.  Well we (dad) couldn't give them much hope because for one thing, the church doesn't do fish projects and two the church isn't in the business of creating businesses for people.  That's what they wanted.  They have already dug their hole.  We just couldn't give them any encouragement.  We think of our own ancestors who started out in the Salt Lake Valley with absolutely nothing and there wasn't anyone there to give them anything.  Many of the people down here are very poor, but they still have more than our ancestors did.  I think that we are going to include those thoughts in our next presentations.

We we hope that you all have a great week.  We love you and miss you and think about each of you always.  We have already been back for 10 weeks and the time has really flown by.  We will soon be at our half-way mark.  The time we were at home still counts as our mission since we worked from home the whole time.


July 24, 2016 - Dad

Dear Family,

I haven't written for a month or more and decided I had better get on the ball.  We enjoy hearing from each of you whether by email, phone, or FB.  It helps keep our spirits up.  We have really hit some snags in our Petrolina Project (the quail).  The project was not approved after all and it is simply because the costs are way too high.  This has all happened because someone without authorization promised things that the Church simply will not do.  I spent over an hour on the phone Friday talking to a member of the Stake Presidency with whom we traveled with to see the families.  I think it was one of the most difficult things that I have ever done.  I came home by myself feeling just horrible, not because everything they want will not be provided, but because a promise was made that should never have happened.  I just even today feel sick about it.  There is a feeling that some members might leave the Church if this doesn't go through.  All I could say was, "Everybody must make that decision on their own.  If their testimony is based on one experience that doesn't go their way, that is their choice unfortunately.~  We are stuck between a rock and a hard place.  It is not very fun being in the middle of something we did not create.  I did ask if the members, when they do receive a smaller incubator, smaller brooder, fewer cages, fewer quail, less feed, etc. would really still be offended over being given so much.  The counselor was not sure.  Needless to say, we will not be mentioning the word quail for a long time.  I am trying to get them to understand that the purpose of welfare is to get people back on their feet not to set them up in private business.  We do need your prayers and your faith.  This has been really really hard, not what I thought a mission would be like.

Thank the Lord that we had a wonderful experience yesterday at the ~Copa Smith~ (Smith Cup), a track and field meet for the youth of the Sao Paulo Stake in celebration of its 50th anniversary, being the first stake in all of South America, organized in 1966.  Several wards asked me to come teach their youth how to pass a baton, which I did on a Saturday and on a Tuesday.  It was fun.  I did have to remind myself that I was not working with experienced athletes.  The leaders were surprised that I knew all the Portuguese words for track and field terms, but I have known those for years.  The Copa Smith began a long time ago but was discontinued because of some sportsmanship issues (pois e).  So this was the first one in 15 years and everyone was very excited.  Sister Raquel who is the Church Legal Department secretary came with her husband to pick us up Saturday morning at 7:00 a.m.  It was cold outside at that time but the sun came out and warmed up to a perfect day.  People were really nice to us all day and dept bringing food and drinks to us and even brought pillows for Paula to sit on.  It was like a giant picnic with activities.

The event kicked off with a parade of athletes on the track, a nice synthetic one that was provided to the stake for free.  The kids marched in with their own colored tee shirts by ward and their flags.  Then they lit a torch and two young people, a young man and a young women from our ward carried the torch around for a lap.  It was really cool and all done with the Olympic music coming from a loud speaker.  We had a prayer and then a welcome from President Maia.  They had the athletes take an oath by repeating the rules of sportsmanship of what was expected of them.  That was really neat and the kids were on their best behavior all day, not complaining or flare ups that I could see.  There was even an ambulance there just in case.  We had one case of dizziness with a young sister but she recovered just fine.  Each ward then did a special dance they had worked on and they really got into it.  It was a lot of fun to watch.

They didn't do all the events as that would not have been practical, but they did the 100 200 and 400 meter, and 4 x 100 races as well as the shot put (they found one, a 4 kg. women's which worked fine for both), and the long jump.  I got a group started in the shot put.  Many leaders and ward members served as officials and they did great.  A lot of people kept asking me if I thought things were being done right and I assured them that they were well organized and prepared, because they were.  In the shot put, there were a lot of illegal throws, the shot dropping down from the neck area and to the side which is not only illegal but dangerous.  A side arm throw like that can really mess up your elbow and shoulder.  But I suggested they not mention anything more than to show the correct technique and then let them be.  They had never one single time in their lives 'put' the shot.  It is not a throw after all, but a push.  I didn't see anything too horrible so the officials didn't worry about it after we talked.  I am sure a few kids had sore elbows this morning.  I got the long jump officials to measure the closed point of contact with the sand and to read the measurement from the takeoff board.  They did great after that.  Someone had put together a homemade rake made of wood and screws which actually worked perfectly.  All the little kids in the stands were running and jumping into the pit when the event was not taking place and even the leaders all went out and took a turn.  That really endeared them to the young people.  They were such good sports.  If you are wondering if I tried anything, the answer is NO.  I did not want to make a complete fool out of myself.  I thing my vertical jump which was once enough to dunk is now about 3" on a really good day.  I did do a 50 meter jog over to an exchange zone but that was out of necessity and wasn't real pretty I am sure.

The running events took a long time as they had separate heats for the Beehives, the Mia Maids, the Laurels, the Deacons, the Teachers and the Priests.  Then they would have a final.  One little girl who ended up winning her group in the 400 asked me what the best thing to do for the race was.  I grinned and said the best thing would have been to train for it for 4 months so you knew how to run it.  But I told her what to do and to save some energy for the end, which she did, winning by about 60 meters.  in other words, she would have won anyway without by great counsel.  This morning, I talked to her at Church and she thanked me.  I actually thought she had some potential to run pretty fast if given an opportunity.  I told lots of kids to run the inside of their lane to shorten the distance a little.  They did that.  The only scare was after I had walked back up in the stands, they were putting the kids in their lanes for the 400 meter relay and they weren't using the right staggers.  Had they started the race, the runner in lane 1 would have run 400 meters, the next about 408, the next about 415,until out in lane 8 the poor kid would have already been 40 plus meters behind.  The starter didn't think I knew what I was talking about and in a kind way I assured him that I did as did a lot of others who knew me.  He finally could see it and the rest of the relays went just fine.  They even called me out of the stands (they had a great and very funny announcer all day) to show them the relay exchange zones and that went great for all the heats.  The kids really tried their best and they had a great time.  They get few opportunities to have physical exercise like that and so they were loving being out of their homes where there was a lot of room to roam.

The leaders had a 4 x 100 relay also, first the sisters and then the brethren.  Paula and I actually got excited and stood to watch them.  It was not world class talent, but it was competition between them and It was fun to see.  They finally did an on the site improvised bishop/stake president (just the president race.  You knew that was coming with all the youth loving it.  President Ret (prounounced Het chee) won, with bishop Ret his brother in second.  Our bishop, Ultimo Valois was last.  I told a few members that "O Ultimo foi ultimo."  Ultimo means last and he took last place.  He was given that name because his father told everyone he would be the Last Velois, o Ultimo Valois and that is his name.  He is a really great bishop.  Everyone loves him.  I told him he was a good sport to participate.  He said, "I wasn't going to kill myself out there.".  Our second counselor, Leo Bettencourt Moraes participated in about everything and this morning at church his wife Deborah told us that he threw up all night long.  He came for a while but looked a little pale.  He took us home after the meet.  It was a very fun day, Portuguese all day long.  We both got to know a lot of people and the members were happy we attended.  It meant a lot to them.  We heard that at meetings today.  I would just add that there were small holes all over the field which had been filled in with dirt.  I will let my kids take a guess at what they were.  There was a really nice throwing cage like at BYU and those holes were made by the hammer throw.  I asked a member what he thought they were and he quickly said, "The hammer."  There wouldn't have been one single person there outside of Paula and I who would have known that.  Later I found out that he runs his own personal training business. Also, there are 3 Brazilian athletes competing in the Olympics who train at the facility where we had the Copa Smith.   

I guess I will end for now and hope to write more frequently as I had been.  We love you all, pray for you and think of you often.

Love, Dad

Saturday, July 9, 2016

July 4, 2016

Dear Family,

I hope that you all had a very happy 4th of July.  It was just a normal day for us although we did have a very nice FHE and a "barbecue" dinner afterwards.  Elder Hale worked for the US Postal service for his career so he put a presentation together about the American Revolution and showed the commemorative stamps that were made for the Bicentennial.  It was very interesting.  I think I've told most of you that my friend, Ellen Mathias Thomas, who performed at the Playmill with me in 1975 is here now as she and her husband are presiding over the São Paulo West mission.  We invited them to join us for our FHEs and they came.  It was fun to be together with her again.  She is so nice.  They brought their youngest daughter, who will be a senior, with them.  She is really bored right now and it has reminded me of when we were here and Lynn was a senior and he was really bored.  Lynn started going out on splits with the Elders and that seemed to make a difference for him.  I suggested that to Ellen and they are going to set that up for their daughter, with the sisters of course.  :)  

Yesterday we went and visited a member lady who lives just around the corner from us and is interested in a garden.  She lives in a little tiny house nestled in between two huge apartment buildings.  She doesn't have any ground, only cement and there is hardly any sunlight.  We are going to try a few things for her.  She is a widow and doesn't have the greatest health.  Hopefully we can help her out.  She is Cynthia's age but you would think that she was much older.

In the afternoon we went down to Praia Grande to check out our gardens.  There are four families participating right now.  Things are looking good for most of them.  Ivan has things ready but hasn't planted much yet.  He has trouble being very motivated.  I'm sending a few pictures and you will notice right off the bat that they must like lettuce!  That seems to be mostly what they plant.  I think what happens is that the seeds are so small that once they come up they separate them and transplant them so they don't waste any plants.  I am thinking that that's what we should be doing back home.

One of the first things I noticed when we got to Ivan's home were the papaya trees along the back wall.  We took a picture of the trees when they were about 12 inches tall and as big around as a pencil in January, well now 6 months later they are big trees-bearing fruit!!  I couldn't believe it!  There are lots of eucalyptus tree plantations down here and they grow to maturity in about 6-10 years.  It is incredible!  The photo with Dad pointing down and a man kneeling is at Ivan's home.  That is Ivan.  So far he has only planted that one bed.  He has 4 or 5 more to plant.

Things have slowed down quite a bit for me right now.  I was really busy for the first 6 weeks after we returned but now that has kind of passed.  Hopefully I will be able to find more to do soon.  I am actually going to talk to the Thomas' to see if they need some office help a day or two during the week.  I don't think that they have a senior missionary office couple in their mission.  Shirley (Sister Cox) has also talked to me about helping her with the "Pastoral" counseling of missionaries.  She said that it wouldn't be anything deep, but that sometimes the missionaries just need someone to listen to them.  I really want to help her as she is so swamped.  I'll really think about it and pray about it this weekend and then decide.  I am going to start doing the translating that Dad does.  We both thought that you had to be a man to do it but two of the new senior sisters have started and I have been cleared to do it.  It should be fun.  I will be starting up my English class the first week of Aug. and that will help keep me busy.

We were able to get tickets for an Olympic doubleheader soccer game on Aug. 6th!  We were able to get enough tickets for all of the senior missionaries and for Ellen's family.  We are all really excited to be able to go to an Olympic event!!  It is here in São Paulo at the Corinthian's Stadium.  It is a really nice stadium that was built for the world cup.  Our seats are going to be about on the 20 yd. line right down in front, I think.  

Dad and I have both had colds but are now pretty much better.  Lots of people have been sick lately.  We hope that everyone is doing well.  We are excited for the possibilities coming up for Lynn and Brandi and hope that the best job will be offered.  We love you all very much.  Have a great week.


Saturday, July 2, 2016

June 26, 2016

Dear Family,

I think that I didn't write last week.  Oops.  When we talk to all of our children each week, sometimes I forget to write.  We've been back to Brazil now for six weeks.  The time has really flown by.  It is good that we came back.  We have been busy and that is what we wanted.

We are still trying to get our quail project up and running.  There are a lot of steps to do but we think that this week we can really make some progress.  We are pretty sure now that it will be approved.  That has been a relief.  We are working on some legal papers now.  It just takes time to find out the info we need, email the stake president, wait for his reply, fill out more requests, and then start over.  I hope that we are about done with that process.  The people in Petrolina are very anxious to get started.

We were supposed to go to Cruz Alta in the south but Dad got sick this week and we had to cancel.  I really think it was a blessing as I don't think that we were prepared to go this week.  We will reschedule in a few weeks.  

I was kind of glad that we didn't go this week for another reason.  We had purchased tickets to go to a concert, actually a concert rehearsal, on the morning of the 23rd and I really wanted to go.  I think that Dad forgot about that when he scheduled our trip.  Dad couldn't go but I went with the group and it was FABULOUS!!!!  The Sao Paulo orchestra is world class and they were wonderful.  Their conductor is a woman, which is quite rare, and she is also the conductor of the Baltimore Symphony.  She is the only female conductor ever to be invited to lead a prestigious event (I can't quite remember what it is called) in London.  The hall is ranked in the top 10 or 12 concert halls in the world.  They had a guest violinist that was absolutely phenomenal and she was playing on a 1703 Stradivarius violin.  I've never heard anything quite like it before.  All of the music was unfamiliar to me but it was so good that it didn't matter.  We are going to try to go again in Aug. before their European tour.

On the 18th Dad and I were invited to speak at a ward party about marriage.  They celebrate something similar to Valentine's Day down here in June.  We gave our talks and then had a pizza dinner.  We both talked about how Dad figured out how to clean the toilets after his surgeries and mine so that I wouldn't have to do it.  A member of that ward is on our welfare team and told us the next Monday that everyone in the ward was talking about cleaning toilets!  I guess we made an impression.  That isn't the only thing that we talked about but they did want us to talk about how we help each other.

I had an interesting experience on Wed. or Thurs.  It was around 4:15 and I was getting ready to go home when I heard someone say "Sondereggers."  I saw a man walk into Fernando's office and then I heard our name again.  I got up and walked around my cubicle and there was Todd Baker, my cousin Diane Thacker's husband!  He was in Brazil on business and came up to find me.  It turns out that a lady that he baptized (when she was little) works on our floor.  I thought that was really neat for him to take time out of his busy schedule to stop by.  He told me of a really neat experience he had when he was a missionary in Brazil and in this area.  He showed me a picture of a small branch that he served in as a Branch President.  There were about 160 people in the picture but only a very few were members then.  Another missionary had baptized a pastor of a different church a short time earlier.  The pastor told his congregation that if he ever found the one and only true church that he would tell them.  Well he got baptized and then so did his entire congregation!  Todd was there when they all came into the branch.  Many of those people have served as bishops, stake presidents, gone on missions, married in the temple, etc.  Needless to say that man lost his income.  He was hired to be the gardener for the temple.  I felt bad that Dad missed meeting him as he was home sick.

I've had some sad news lately.  Two of my high school classmates have passed away this month.  It is kind of weird because I didn't really know either of them but I have felt a little sad.  They both had served missions.  I'm not sure if Terry stayed active in the church or not but Ryan did and had been a bishop.  He died of cancer.  You just never know when your time is up.  I guess that is reason to stay close to the Lord and always obey the commandments.

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


P.S.  Here are a few pictures of the concert hall.