Wednesday, August 12, 2015

99 weeks- Mission Accomplished

Our missionary boy is home!!!! He was supposed to be home at 9:40am on Tuesday August 11th but they ended up getting delayed in Brazil.  They left Brazil about 1:30 AM on Tuesday and flew into Miami. HD knew before he left Brazil he would miss his connecting flight so he had called us Monday night and told us to be on standby for a pickup time. That was the worst!  He ended up getting into Baltimore at 4:35pm.  It wasn't easy to wait those extra 7 hours!  Here are some pics from our day.
Welcome home elder Sanderson! We missed you! 
Sierra holding all the signs and wearing her Brazil sunglasses. :) 
Haylee can see him coming 
Happy tears.
Emotional mom
There he is! The security lady was clapping. :) 
Best hug ever!! 

The fab five! 

Still the same goofy boy. 
Love this pic of him and Sierra. 

With his missionary plaque at the church 
With the stake president of our stake in Maryland President Darren Sakai, after he was officially released as a missionary. 
The poor guy was up for over forty hours at this point but we still stayed up for a while telling stories and seeing what he had brought back for everyone. 
Showing us what a white shirt looks like compared to his mission shirts. The lighting isn't good but you can still tell a significant difference. 

Thank you all for your support, prayers and love. They have gotten us all through this mission adventure.  We are so glad to have our elder home and look forward to the rest of the adventures in his life.  
I will do one more post where HD will write his testimony in Portuguese and translate it into English.  Thank you for reading and following along this awesome journey! 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

98 weeks- the best two years

O fim se aproxima,

Hey everyone! It feels strange just to be writing this last email, but
I will try to keep it as normal as possible. Lucky for you all, A LOT
happened this week, so I'm going to write more than "this week we
walked in the sun and talked to people." While we did do that, there
was a lot more!

I'll start with my week and then reply to yours =)

English class on Monday:
We were in my English class on Monday, and it was going as good as
always. There is usually about 20 to 25 people there, and everyone
participates, laughs, and learns together. This week, the class wanted
to learn about food. I asked if they had any specific types of food in
mind, but they just wanted a general idea. I broke up the vocabulary
into the basic food groups and away we went. I managed to teach a lot
about the culture of the United States too, and then waited for
questions. While they were asking me about different foods, someone
asked, "Professor, what is that weird red tube that people eat in the
movies?" I thought to myself, "what on earth is she talking about,"
and then thought about it for a few minutes. I asked several questions
to see if I could find out more (how big is it, is it a candy, etc),
but nobody could explain it. Finally, I realized what it was:
Licorice! I had forgotten all about licorice! I couldn't help but
laugh at that and it was fun to teach about.

We also got stopped by a lot of drunks this week. I always take time
to talk to them and to read a scripture with them or to pray with
them. It makes them a lot more friendly towards us and it also gives
us a chance to get to know them. We taught at least 10 this week, and
marked baptismal dates with 5 of them haha. Unfortunately, none of
them went to church, but we will visit them this week and see if we
can get them to go this week. Almost all of them know they have to
change, and many have the desire to do so, but it is really hard for
them to do. Just one more reminder about how important it is for us to
live the Word of Wisdom. One of them made me laugh though, he asked us
to say a prayer with him, so of course we did. When we finished, he
decided that he wanted to say a prayer too. He started by saying,
"God, dude, thank you for. . ." and away he went. I didn't laugh out
loud until we had walked really far away, but it was the first time I
ever heard someone call Heavenly Father by the title of "Dude."

Random note from the week: I ate an avocado flavored popsicle, it was
awesome! Our bishop makes ice cream and he always gives us popsicles
for free!

I also had one of the most gratifying experiences of my mission this
week. On Friday, we went to lunch with a family where almost the
entire extended family are members of the Church. We got there and
there was a recent convert whom I've gotten to know since being here
in Mauazinho. She was baptized with her husband in February, and they
are the greatest people in the world. You've never met someone with a
bigger heart. As we were at lunch, she decided to share an expereince
with us.

She told us that although she was baptized in February, she had never
really been converted to the Chruch. She didn't want to go to church
anymore and told her husband that she wouldn't be going anymore.
Unfortunately, he said, "well, if you don't do, I won't go." They are
a wonderful couple, but that was the decision they had made. This was
three Sundays ago.

That very Sunday, my companion and I were in the chapel doing our
planning session. We hadn't had time to do so during the week, and
needed to get organized before the next week started. By the time we
finished, it was almost time to go home for the night, but with enough
time to make one more visit before going home. I felt like we should
go visit this family, but wanted to see if Elder Prado had a better
idea. When I asked him what he wanted to do, he said, "let's go visit
that family." I said that I was feeling the same thing, and away we
went. We got to the house, and they invited us in as always. Whatever
their feelings are about the Church, they LOVE the missionaries. We
sat and talked for a little while before deciding to head home. Before
we left, this woman asked us for a blessing. She is pregnant and is
having a rough pregnancy. We gave her a blessing and then headed home.
A few days later, her husband got sick too and asked us for a
blessing. We were happy to help.

As she told this story, I didn't even realize that it was us she was
talking about until half way through the story. She then said, "I felt
the power behind the blessing they gave me. I was healed! I know this
Church is true. I had just told my husband not five minutes
beforehand, 'If the boys stop by, I'm going to ask them for a
blessing,' and you know what, there they were, sent from God. I went
to church the next week and couldn't help but want to read, comment,
pray, and tell everyone about what had happened! I will never forget
that. Even my husband was healed. He was shaking so badly in his bed
that I actually thought he would die. I had decided to call his family
to let them know, and all of a sudden, the missionaries showed up.
This church is true."

Easily one of the most humbling experiences of my mission, and it
happened right at the end. I can only thank my Heavenly Father for
every single time He put me in exactly the right place at exactly the
right time. I love being an instrument in His Hands. It has been the
greatest time of my life. I can never forget what I have been through,
I wouldn't change a single thing that happened. These truly have been
the best two years. I know that this is the Savior's Church. He lives.
He loves us. He will never leave us. I know that God calls prophets
today and that they continually guide us. I know that the Book of
Mormon is true. It brings me closer to my Savior and is the greatest
evidence we have of the veracity of this wonderful message. I will
never regret my mission. It was an experience that words cannot
possibly describe. I served with all of my heart, and now I have
eternities to be grateful for it. I thank you all for all of your
prayers and all of your support. I couldn't have done it without you.

Alma 26:37

Elder HD Colton Sanderson
Missão Brasil Manaus
September 11, 2013 - August 11, 2015

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

97 weeks- getting the job done (second to last email)

Hey there everyone!

Has anybody lost track of the number of days? If you have, it's down to 14 now. Hahaha. I still don't think it's hit me that I'm going home, but I don't think it will until I actually am in the airport or on the plane. However, I did have my "entrevista de saída" this week. Translation: Exit Interview. It's the last interview we have with President Castro before going home. This interview is different than all the other ones because we don't talk about how the work is in our area, about our companion, or anything like that. It is just talking about home. The only references that President made with respect to my mission were telling me that it was ending, and asking me to share the two most spiritual experiences that I've had on my mission. Other than that, it was home. What I want to do with my life and if I understand how important it is to get married, haha. I also renewed my temple recommend and he authorized us to go to the temple before I go home =) I'm really excited about that!
We also had a baptism this week! We baptized Francisca, she is the ex-wife of Louis (whom I baptized about a month or so ago). She is 76 years old, and her baptism was wonderful! I was afraid that we wouldn't get a baptism in this transfer (it's been rough), but we managed it! Now I just want a baptism on the 8th or 9th! 

Sorry, sent the email on accident! This mouse is quick and went to the send button when I wanted to change the color back.

Anyways, let me respond to your email:

It was a pretty good week, but what I already read is pretty much all tht happened. Other than that, we just walked around. The weather was actually cold here this week. It's been cloudy for two or three days and the temperature seems to have dropped. We are grateful for that, but also have to deal with taking FREEZING COLD showers. Without the sun to heat the water up during the day, we suffer through ice cold showers. Not a fun experience. What's funny though, is that you still have to use the AC at night. However, we also had a day that was extra hot. It probably reached 100 degrees or so, and I was in my exit interview, so I stayed in the AC the whole day haha. My companion had to suffer through it though because we were on splits. 
Tell Sierra that if she wants, she can be homeless with me too. It's not that bad of a life, you don't really have to clean up too much and just keep everything in a suitcase. Haha it's a good life, but at least she's saving money! I'm glad Haylee is still Haylee, I'll be glad to be home and see them both =)
Other than that, life goes on in the Brazil Manaus Mission. We are baptizing a ton and are loving it! That's what we were called to do, and I'm happy to say we're getting the job done.

Love you all! Hope that you have a great week!

Elder Sanderson

Monday, July 20, 2015

96 weeks- where has the time gone?

Hey there everyone =)

Yes, we are just weeks away, and I have no idea how to describe how it feels. I honestly don't think it's hit me yet that I'm going home. I know that I am, and I know it's soon, but the emotional aspect hasn't hit me yet. I'm scared for that moment haha. It will be a tearful goodbye to Brazil. I didn't cry a single tear leaving home, but I'm sure there will be many shed as I go back home. Don't get me wrong, I'm excited, but scared out of my skin too. Every time I talk to someone, it's, "you go home so soon Elder!" or "are you excited to go home Elder?" The reminder is daily. I don't feel like it will be hard to adjust to being home, but there is a chance. Yes, we came on our mission to come home from our mission, but that doesn't mean that we want to, it's just one more thing we have to do. Like I said though, I really am excited too, even though it will be sad =)

Our week was pretty good. We didn't baptize, but did find a baptism for this week! I think I told you guys about Louis (the 79 year-old man who is partly deaf that I baptized), well we're going to baptize his ex-wife. She has to be about the same age as him and has been a Catholic her entire life. We started teaching her and talked about the gospel of Jesus Christ (faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to the end). She asked, "but I was baptized when I was a baby, does that still count, or is there another baptism?" We explained that her baptism as a baby was great because it already gave her a reason to follow God's path and to believe in Him, but that baptism should also be something we choose. It shouldn't be forced upon us or given to us without our understanding or knowledge of it. It will be much better in the final judgement to say, "Yes, Heavenly Father, I was baptized because I wanted to be and because I chose to follow Thine plan." The Spirit was really strong and she obviously felt it. She then said, "okay, then I want to be baptized, if there is a "right baptism" I want to be baptized." It was awesome! She has been Catholic her entire life, but the Holy Ghost testified to her that our message is true and that she needs to be baptized in the same way that Jesus Christ was baptized. 

We also went to the temple this week. It was great! I'm going to try and go one more time before I go home =) While we were there, we had a little bit of time before our session, and so we just sat there and enjoyed the peacefulness of the temple. President Souza, the first counselor in the temple presidency, came over and began talking to me. He asked me to share a scripute with him as if he were an investigator meeting us for the first time. I shared Mosiah 2:41. He thought about it for a second and then said, "Elder, I can't imagine how many times I've read that scripture, but it hasn't ever stood out to me in such a way. Isn't that amazing? Isn't it marvelous that our ability to learn and understand scriptrues is like that? Sometimes, we just have to hear it from someone else for it to all come together." He then shared with me that every year he tries to set a goal of reading the New Testament, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. He said that this year he read them all in 40 days! We talked for a few more moments and then he said he needed to go. It was a really neat experience to talk to him and he said the same about me. 

I also taught an English class for the community. It was awesome! There were about 15 or so students and they seemed to really like it. I was trying to get their ideas and opinions on what they wanted to learn, but everyone was too shy to say anything. So, I thought to myself, "what would they like to learn," and the idea came to me: how to pray. Brazilians are almost all Cristians, and they all like to pray. I asked them if they would like to learn how to pray, and almost all of them said out loud, "Yes!" Haha, I love them and their faith =) So, that's what we learned. It was fun to teach and they seemed to really like it. If I didn't love the United States so much, I would come back to Brazil and be an English teacher, it's really fun to do and pays pretty well here. Don't worry mom, that won't happen =) I will be teaching another class today for another 15 or 20 students! 

Other than that, the week was just normal. We are trying to find even more people to teach and I know the Lord will provide a way! I'm just going to keep on working hard! Last interviews with President are in two weeks, and then we're headed out the door. Can't believe the last day of my mission (the last working day) is three weeks from YESTERDAY. I have no idea where the time went, but have enjoyed every minute of it!

I love you all and can't thank you enough for your prayers and support!

Elder Sanderson  

95 weeks -teaching English and tears

Hey mom and fam =)

How is everyone? I hope that you are all great! Mom and Haylee, I hope you guys survived camp! Just remember, I've been camping for the last 17 months. Surely you guys can do it for a week! 

Mom, you are the best (you can put that in there if you want haha). 
****funny part here ******

Now back to what you can put on the blog-
FOOD: I already have been searching and pondering about what I want to eat when I get home! Snack-wise, I'm just going to have to go to a store and see what wonders are there. As for dinners, I have some requests:
Mom- Lasagna, taco chili, and meat balls and gravy (they can be all in the same night or on different nights if you want =) )
Grandma Huhmann (assuming we'll be on the farm for a visit)- Roast beef and everything good that comes with it!
Joe- Whatever he wants to cook on the grill!
Other than that, feel free to make anything that isn't rice, beans, or spaghetti. We eat way too much of that in the mission. Every day, to be exact. 

Our week was pretty good, but we still haven't baptized anyone. I don't know what the deal is, but all of a sudden, the people have turned against us haha. It seems like no one wants to hear our message. No worries though, we'll get there. We also went to a meeting with what I believe was a member of the Brazilian House of Representatives. He found out that I was offering to teach English and invited us to meet with him. We went to his office and he bought us breakfast and then helped me get everything set up. He and his staff were really surprised that we would be willing to teach for free. I told him that I'm happy to help and that that is what Heavenly Father would want us to do. He arranged an area for us to teach in, got some tables and chairs, and began announcing the class on the radio. We're really excited for the first class tonight and will be using it as a means to not only help the community, but also to find new people to teach! I'll be teaching on Mondays and Saturdays until I go home =) 
We also went to a mission leadership conference. It was really last-minute, but also really fun! We received training on how to be Zone Leaders and District Leaders and then got to eat pizza. President bought at least 65 pizzas for us all and it was great! I also got to say good bye to some of my friends in the mission. It was bittersweet because it's the last time I'll see many of them until we all get to the Celestial Kingdom. It was great to see Elder Calcagnoto (my companion from Cruzeiro do Sul) and we just sat and told stories for a few hours. Even if I don't see him in person again, we'll keep in contact with Skype and Facebook! 
That conference was when I sang the most this week. While we were there, Sister Castro had us sing a song that two Sisters wrote for the mission. It puts the mission into a missionary's perspective and is really good. At the end of the song, there is a part where someone asks, "But do you love Manaus?" and we all respond, "Of course we do," but it would be less formally translated as, "that's a clown question bro." As we sang that last part, I was reminded of just how much I love this mission. It brought tears to my eyes to sing that line. They were tears of happiness and saddness, of excitement, stress, miracles, faith, love, trial, hardship, difficulties, frustrations, and so much more. The best part of it all, I've still got one more month to go! One more month to Go Big and Go Home. 

Love you all, thank you for your prayers! Vamos em frente!

Elder Sanderson  

****These pics crack me up. He was re-enacting a scene from pirates: he made his comp hold the umbrella. 

That little girl ROWED them to her house for lunch. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

94 weeks! -yellow shirt

Hey there everyone,

One more week down, and yes, I do know how many are left, but what's the point in saying it here? Haha, but this week went by waaaaayyy too fast. It actually was uncomfortably fast. My son is loving the mission and we've already has some experiences I'm sure he won't forget haha. It's even weirder for him because all of the Elders in our zone are old-timers in the mission, but nobody seems to be giving him a hard time for it. The members are pretty funny when they ask him if this is his first area, and he always has to respond that it is (obviously). I asked them how they knew that and they all say, "Elder, it's your shirts. Yours is yellow and his is white." I try not to take offense =p A yellow shirt just shows them that I'm experienced and wise. 

Let me respond to your four points of interest really quick:
1. I already knew that it was Sierra's birthday today, I've had that planned for several weeks now, thank you. 
2. I was just telling my companion that I wanted to know how the cup was going! I'm glad to hear we won, and not at all surprised. How did Brazil do? I'm going to brag about this all week.
3. I miss shark's always the same shows, but it's the tradition of watching that counts!
4. Congrats on the dream job! Now you just have to get me one! I'm going to try and teach at the MTC in December, but for now I think I'll just do something else on campus. It's hard to get into the MTC when you're not there in person, but I'm confident about December. 
5. SPORTS!!!! I can't wait to watch Sportcenter again, it will be the greatest thing in the world. I want to play sports too! Just in case you guys wanted to know. How did Gordon do in the race? I hope he did good.

Sounds like the 4th was a nice, small town American event. I liked that sign too. Were the fireworks good? I had a fairly American 4th. I wanted to baptize, but it didn't work out, so I did some other cool stuff. I wore a tie that has about 15 bald eagles on it, watched Beyoncé sing the national anthem at Obama's inauguration (the members we ate lunch with showed it to me), we ate brownies (also at the members' house), and I showed them the fireworks from the Mall last year. I also heard a country song that someone was listening to on the bus! It was "need you now" by Little Big Town? I don't remember the band, but I remembered the lyrics. It's a trunky song, but I was happy with country music =) Finally, I ended the day drinking root beer (which an American family gave me last week) and eating sunflower seeds that I'd been waiting to eat since Christmas. Don't worry, they aren't expired. It was a pretty good day! My companion tried the root beer and said it tastes like toothpaste haha. 

We also had interviews with President Castro. It was my second-to-last interview with him before I go home. His first question, "Elder Sanderson, are you excited to be training?" Second question, "Elder Sanderson, how do you feel now that your mission is ending?" It was a very strange question. I told him that I feel a little bit of everything: sad, happy, excited, nervous, scared, confident, etc. but that I'm not going to stop working until I go home. He told me that that is how it should be and that he knows I'll do a good job. I told him about the Dear John too, but he didn't really comment on it, which was funny. He just said he was sorry to hear that and then moved on. But that's how President is, if it's not getting in the way of your work, it doesn't really matter. 

We also visited a less active family whose 19 year-old son passed away this week. He drowned in a river that passes through our area. The bishop asked us to stop by, and so we did. I have never had to deal with a situation like that. When my friend Carmody passed away, it was almost the same, but not quite. That was with people I knew, this was with complete strangers. I said a prayer and asked Heavenly Father to guide me. That's exactly what happened. We went to the family and asked if we could talk to them. They received us really well and invited us in to their house. We talked about what had happened, about their son, and then asked to share a message with them. We started with a prayer and then I just tried to follow the Spirit. We taught about the Atonement and shared Alma chapter 7 with them. I like that chapter a lot because it shows that Jesus Christ suffered for ALL of our problems, not just our sins. He suffered for our trials, difficulties, sadness, pains, etc. We then shared the scripture in Matthew chapter 8 (I think it's 8), which talks about Jesus Christ's invitation to come unto him and he will make our burdens light. To finish, we talked about the blessings of the temple and the plan of salvation. The Holy Ghost was there to comfort that family, and we were blessed to offer words of comfort as well. Many tears were shed, and the family thanked us for our visit and for the love we have for them. It was an experience that I don't want to forget. 

That's about it for our week! We had a blast, but are excited to work even harder. The members are giving us lots of references and we are excited to go and see them all! Tonight we're going to contact two new families and will have a family home evening with another. It'll be a great way to start off the week!

Love you all and hope that everything is going great!

Elder Sanderson

93 weeks - last transfer- Go big and go home

This week was a long, but also very quick week. We were running around like crazy in meetings and trainings, and so only got to work a little bit in our area. It was kinda of lame, but that's how it goes. A lot of the meetings were trainings on going home and exit interviews with President, which take all day. My companion, Elder Salas, is going home at 4am, so the interviews were all for him, but mine will be here in FIVE WEEKS. It hit me this last week that I have entered into my last transfer as a missionary. The second I realized that I go home in six weeks, I felt really scared and lost. I can't imagine what it's going to be like going home. Actually, I can imagine, but I didn't think it would ever get here. It was always just a thing you put behind you with the attitute of, "I don't have to worry about that right now." But now, it's here. I'm just going to dig in and work even harder! 
Since Elder Salas was going home, I knew I was going to get a new companion. They called me last night and told me that I will be TRAINING again! =D I can't wait to train again! I'll be training a brazilian named Elder Prado. I can't wait! All missionaries dream of training for their last transfer and I got the chance! I haven't met him yet, because he won't get here until tomorrow, but I'm excited. For now, I'll be staying with two of the other Elders who are really good friends of mine. I'm excited for it =) 
I had a neat experience this week while watching, "Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration" with a family. As Joseph and the others were in the jail and the mob came storming in, the 10 year-old son asked us, "who will win? The good or the bad?" It had never really been a thought of mine, but as I was sitting there, I was happy to say that I already know. It's never been a doubt in my mind, we know who will win. What seemed to be a real battle to a young man, is really not a question at all as to who will win, we already know. I then thought, "to the mob, it must have seemed like they won, but they didn't." Look at the Church today, look at all it has. It's not even a question as to who won or is still winning. WE are. I love it! I won't ever forget the question that young man asked us, and my answer will never change. I hope it can be the same for all of you as well =) 
Other than that, we had a pretty boring week. I'm grateful for the chance that I had to serve with Elder Salas and grateful for all of the things I learned from him. I also look forward to working as hard as I can with Elder Prado for the next 6 weeks. I already have a motto that has probably been used by many, many misisonaries: GO BIG and GO HOME! It's going to be a wonderful transfer.

Have a great week everyone! Love you all and can't wait to see you in a few weeks,

Elder Sanderson

Ecclesiastes 7:8

P.s. An american family gave me root beer today! I plan on drinking it on the 4th of July while eating sunflower seeds