Saturday, December 10, 2016

Letter from Mom

Dear Family,

How are you all doing?  We are pluggin' along down here.  This week has been a little slow for me.  Dad has been busy getting everything ready to make aIl of the purchases for our Petrolina project.  (I just lost my email and now I have to start over.)  It will be good to have that up and running finally.  

For some reason, this week my Portuguese is really bad!  Last Sunday I couldn't understand much of anything and the week before I understood almost everything.  That is frustrating!  It is very difficult to learn a new language at my age.  I really don't like to pray in Portuguese because for some reason, it feels like I'm not really praying.  I did offer a prayer, in Portuguese, last week at the beginning of our Fast Offering meeting.  Elder Costa was presiding!  That was a little nerve wracking to pray, in a different language, in front of a General Authority.  I had a feeling all day that I would be asked.

Last week at the temple I really got thrown into the lion's den!  That is exactly what we used to do in Rexburg when we would get new people and we were short handed.  I had just begun to study the veil when the supervisor came in all panicked and wondered if I could help in Initiatory.  I said that I could probably read it so she had me read it to her and then said, "Perfect."  That was my training.  We were busy.  Right after that I was on the 10:30 session and I didn't need the card.  After the session they needed more help in Initiatory and we were busy again.  At the end I started to look around the booth and took notice of the curtains, wallpaper, chair, etc. and it looked just like the Rexburg Temple.  It felt like I was home.  It was a good feeling.  I decided that that is how the temple should feel home.

Dad and I, the Harris' and Sister Cox went to a choir concert on Sat.  It was Christmas music and they were really good.  Most of the music was unfamiliar to me but it was still very enjoyable and the choir was very good.  They are a professional choir.  Their men's arrangement of "Ave Maria" was gorgeous.  After the choir we went to a shopping mall to see their Christmas decoration display.  We went last year and I was expecting the same thing but it was totally different.  The mall is 5 stories high and the decorations go from floor to ceiling!  It is incredible.  They kind of reminded me of our yard and you'll understand why when you see the pictures.  :)

I hope that you all have a very good week.  We are glad that little Jakey is recovering from his surgery.  For those of you who don't know, he had to have his adenoids removed.  They were swollen and causing a lot pressure on his inner ear and causing hearing loss which was affecting his speech development.  He also was getting sick a lot.  Hopefully this will help him.  He is so cute and I felt so bad that he had to go through this.  Good thing he is little and probably won't remember it.

We love you all very much.  


1.  Harris', Sister Cox and us at the concert
2.  the frieze above the stage
3.  It was a small hall but the choir was really good.
4. Decorations-see what I mean about our yard?  :)
5. more
6.  5 stories high

1.  more squirrels
2.  more
3.  In the sleigh
4.  the outside 

It was fun.

Letter from Dad

Dear Family,

We started at the temple the day after Thanksgiving.  Mom went on a session and did about everything else.  Thank goodness we have some things memorized in Portuguese already from our time in the Rexburg Temple.  President Silva was on the shift (temple pres.).  He is such a good man.  He is the second Brazilian member who lives and works in Salt Lake but was called to come home and be the temple president.  He too makes you feel like a million dollars.  We got to know a number of great people.  It felt wonderful to be back in the temple working.

Sunday Mom drove out to Petrolina with Shirley Cox who wanted to go along.  I was pretty nervous about her going but she was needed and had no choice really.  I will let her recount her experiences of the day.  Along with my coworker Brother Julio Sales Souza, we got an Uber taxi and headed out to the Guarulhos International Airport.  It took a little over an hour to get there.  We had a short stop in Salvador (Bahia), just a small place of 5 million.  It was really enjoyable to see the city from the plane.  We flew part way up the coast and the ocean was gorgeous.  We got to Petrolina around 4:30 p.m. 

President Teixeira picked us up in his pick-up (a real nice one) and as we were headed to the hotel he asked if we would like to go see some of the plantations.  Julio was totally amazed at the green plantations of the desert as we were coming down.  Anyhow, we checked into the Ibis Hotel and then went driving around the plantations.  There are all kinds of fruits planted and they are watered through irrigation with the water being pumped from the Sao Francisco River.  The reservoir is the largest in South America and you can easily see it on Google Mays when you are looking at northeastern Brazil.  They grow more mangos here than anywhere in the country and are also famous for their seedless table grapes.  We buy them from Pao de Acucre all the time and the plastic container says "Petrolina".   The majority of the vineyards looked really well taken care of but a few weren't.  Pres. Teixeira has two friends, brothers who are showing him the tricks of the trade in growing grapes.  I think he plans to do it too.  The amount of money they make is unbelievable, just as was seeing thousands upon thousands of acres of plantations.  We even went by a few juice factories that work in the area.  Petrolina is pretty much run by one family, the Coelhos.  One of them is a Brazilian Senator, another the mayor, and on and on.  But they have done a lot of good for the city and done many upgrades to the infrastructure there.  Many of the landowners hire people to watch over their vineyards (I've heard that somewhere before) and they sit on their motorcycles watching over everything.  Pres. Teixeira said that on shipment day, the airport runway is covered with planes and trucks.  One other thing that makes the vineyards in Petrolina unique is that they get 2 harvests a year instead of 1 like everywhere else.

We got to the chapel and got set up and visited with Pres. Oliveira, a counselor and irmao Salviano who is the quail expert.  We were pleasantly surprised at the turnaround in their attitudes which had been very much about "entitlement" with not much thought about understanding the Church Welfare Program.  We went into the chapel and some of the 29 families were already there.  I could feel a little tension in the air as we came in so I went around and shook hands with most of them.  We began our meeting just like a sacrament meeting.  After a hymn and prayer, Pres. Teixeira got up and really outlined the program and how it was a pilot program and how everyone needed to be committed to work hard.  His attitude was positive and inspirational which we were glad of.  Fernando Souza, our boss, had gone up there a few month ago and laid down the law and so things changed.  I spoke for 20 minutes using Pres. Uchtdorf's talk, "Providing in the Lord's Way" from General Conference 2011.  One big difference in the welfare program is that we have learned that the way of the Lord is very different than much of the world.  His way is "The more you give, the more you have/receive whereas the world's way is the more you give the less you have.  I read in I Kings 17:10-16 the story of the widow of Zarephath and the prophet Elijah.  I found it interesting that she was the one in need, but she was the one who was asked to give.  We talked about that and how the law of the fast is for everyone, rich and poor, old and young, men and women, etc.  I asked them, "If there is someone here who doesn't need the blessings of the Lord, will you please stand up."  Of course nobody did (I was relieved) and then I explained how our fast offering blesses others and that as we bless others, we also end up receiving many blessings in many different ways.  

Then Julio did a wonderful power point presentation on all the details and particulars of the project and he did a wonderful job in explaining and answering questions.They have to sign a contract (accord) that protects them as well as the Church.  It took some time for the Legal Dept. of the Church to get that hammered out and right.  Each family will be getting a small brooder, a set of cages, an incubator, and 50 quail.  In addition, the Church will provide feed and vaccinations during the first 6 months.  The people are ready and willing to go to work.  We had a question/answer session that was good.  One thing we encouraged them to do was to involve their children and grandchildren in teaching them the value of work.  It will bless their children/grandchildren's lives. 

One couple came up and asked if they could get a picture of me with them.  Mom and I had visited them and they are such a sweet family.  We were really impressed with their 16 year old son and his desire to serve the Lord.  I talked to many others.  One fellow had lived in the USA for 15 years and LaVell Edwards had once come up to him and asked, "What sport do you play?"  He thought this fellow was a Polynesian rugby player.  He fits that description pretty well.  All his children live in the United States except for one who is in Japan.  That would be hard.  We had a nice visit.  Who would have thought you could find someone like that in Petrolina, Pernambuco, Brasil.  The members got in a line outside one of the offices and went in and signed their agreement with Julio.  They were all very excited when they left.  We finished around 10:30 p.m. and then went straight to the hotel without any dinner.  We just didn't have time.  Fortunately, I had a few crackers so we dined on them and bottled water.  By the way, it is super hot in Petrolina and it is that way the entire year.  We are really excited to see this get going and I will be getting things ordered this week.  One thing I failed to mention is that the refugee crisis in the middle east and elsewhere has made it so the Church has had to cut back on budget for other countries.  So the evil of others does have an effect on people all over the world.

It had been stake conference in Petrolina that day and we had been asked a couple of weeks earlier to speak, but we couldn't change our airline tickets.  President David Lisonbee and his wife Bianca had been the main speakers.  President Lisonbee was one of my favorite missionary buddies and we worked and lived together for quite a while in SP.  I felt really bad that we didn't get to see them at stake conference.  As we went to get in line on Monday morning at the airport, standing in line were the Lisonbees.  They had not been able to get a flight out on Sunday.  Well, we had a great reunion even though for a short while.  They are great people.  They invited mom and I to come to their mission in Salvador and speak to the missionaries.  We will see if that is possible.

We had a good flight home until we were just getting close to SP.  The pilot came on and said, "We can't land yet in Guarulhos because of weather and we are in line with other planes, so we'll just cruise around up here for a while.  And we did for about 25 minutes.  I was enjoying the scenery and we flew over Campinas.  I thought maybe we would land at Viracopos Int. in Campinas, but we didn't.  All of a sudden our plan dropped and there was a loud boom.   Everybody on the plane was screaming.  I didn't but my heart came clear out of my body I think, at least in my throat.  But then we were fine and we landed safely without further incident.  We did have a lot of turbulence going down through the clouds, but I am grateful we were protected.

I say that because the day before, the Chapacoense soccer team crashed just minutes from the Medellin,Columbia airport into a mountain side, killing I think 71 people with just six survivors.  You have probably heard or read about this.  The team comes from a tiny place in the state of Santa Catarina and is the pride of the state and for much of Brazil as they are an underdog who rose up to the top division here, a fairy tale story without a fairy tale ending which was supposed to happen at the tournament in Columbia.  One of the team's officials was a member of the Church.  Three players survived but with horrific injures, one having a leg amputated and the others with broken everything and numerous surgeries.  A flight attendant and two other fellows also survived.  It gave us a sick feeling to read all about it and see the pictures of the plane which broke up completely.  How anyone survived is unbelievable.  It will take some time for the club to get put back together.  I remember as a young man in high school when the plane of the Marshall University football team returning to Huntington, West Virginia crashed short of the airport in a wooded area killing everyone on board.  You may have seen the movie "We are Marshall" with Matthew McConaughey.  The nation and soccer teams all over the world are rallying to help the survivors and the community.  

Had an MRI on my foot but won't know anything for a week or more.  We went to a Christmas Choir Concert in downtown Sao Paulo on Sat. the 3rd of Dec.  They sang beautifully.  The small room had great acoustics.  I will let Mom tell the rest.  We enjoyed it.  We were in what was the best part of the city when I served here.  There are still good things to find like the Altino Arantes building which was the tallest all cement building in the world, modeled after the empire state building.  But much of the old downtown is in ruin or abandoned.  There is graffiti everywhere and I mean everywhere.  Some 30 story buildings have it spread all over the walls all the way to the top.  Very sad to see this remembering what it was like.  Lots of crime and prostitution in the area and you have to watch yourself.  We caught a bus (electric) and within 5-6 minutes we were in a whole new world as we went over to Higienopolis to the mall where they have the most incredible Christmas decorations.  Higienopolis is like being on another planet and there are really rich people living there.  The mall is made up of a class of people you never see on our side of the city.  Way too high for us as well as the prices of everything.  But the decorations were awesome.  Just us, the Harris' and sister Cox went.  We aren't having any luck with getting anyone to accompany us.  I slipped and fell down in the bus which hurt and was embarrassing, but I survived a bruised bottom and bruised ego.  Hope all of you have a great week.

Love You Much,

Elder Sonderegger (Dad)