Week 59: in which Chile throws a PARTY

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Dear friends and family,

Whew! What a weekend! This Monday was Chile’s independence day, and Chileans start celebrating early, so from Saturday to yesterday night we were in the house after 8 at the latest. Friday night was the branch party, which was a lot of fun. A sister in our ward also let us borrow huasa dresses, the traditional dress, which we wore all day in the street and at the party. I must say we looked good. ;D With the ward we played traditional games and ate great food. For the sake of time I’ll let you look up the traditional 18 de septiembre food, but know that it was delicious. 😀

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Saturday morning was a lot of fun. The entire zone helped at a nursing home here in Arauco. We sang for the residents, colored with them, and just talked with some of them. Then we helped feed the residents who needed to be spoon-fed. It was a lot of fun because they all had such different personalities and much to teach us. One of the men had a beautiful voice and sang some old huaso songs, and everyone listened. We felt a special spirit that comes from really serving with love. I love being a missionary!

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It’s interesting how before this trio, I was nervous and a little apprehensive about being in a trio. Now I don`t want the cambio to end and split the trio. I’ve grown to really love these two hermanas, and I’ve learned much form both of them. Hermana Lopez taught me how to really plan the lessons, and I think that’s part of the reason that the lessons we did have went relatively smoothly, even from the beginning. Hermana Cuevas taught me the importance of positivity. She sometimes got frustrated with us when we would complain about this or that, and she’d tell us, “But look at everything that went WELL before you go off on the bad!!” I’m grateful for the opportunity to get to know them as companions. There’s a definite difference between living in the same house with someone and living and serving 24/7 with them. I’ve gotten to know and love these sisters for their energy, love for the work, and their testimonies. And now I feel like we’re good friends. 😀

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This week we were finally able to meet with Carlos, whom we are still teaching because he’s not able to meet with the missionaries in Talcahuano right now. We taught the Word of Wisdom, and he shared that he really wants to stop smoking. And then, as we talked, he shared something incredible: before, he was smoking about 20 cigarettes each day, but now he reads the Book of Mormon almost every night, and he’s down to 2 or 3 each day! And he feels greater peace and strength in his life, and he feels much closer to his Heavenly Father. We’re working with him to stop smoking completely, which I know he can do, but I’m very grateful for the power of the Book of Mormon. It truly is a powerful testimony of Christ, and it helps us replace the things that distance us from God with the best things that bring us closer to him. What a wonderful book!

I learned a little about patience, faith, and humility this week as we worked with a few less-active families that are simply choosing not to act or are acting against what they know to be right. We left a lesson with one such member, and I voiced my frustration and sadness with my companions. Hermana Cuevas reminded me that I cannot work against their agency, nor do their choices determine my effectiveness as a missionary.  As she talked, I thought, “I know this already! But this is different! I literally don’t know what else to do!” But as I thought about it later, I realized that it wasn’t different. As I studied in the scriptures later, I thought about with what kind of attitude I’ve approached such situations. I realized that any time I get frustrated or impatient, the Spirit cannot work with me. Frustration is also a lack of faith and the appearance of pride; I was frustrated because I hadn’t seen results where I thought there should be. What I should feel is the security that I have really done what I can to help and love this family and the faith that one day, in the LORD`S timing, my work will bear fruit. In the meantime, I must keep working hard and seeking diligently for the guidance of the Spirit. It was a very powerful and loving lesson, for which I’m grateful.

Know that I love you and pray for you all. I hope you’ll remember to always do the little things: read your scriptures, go to church, and pray always. If you aren`t doing those things, I invite you to start now. Experience for yourself the power of the Book of Mormon and of sincere prayer. I promise you that you will never regret taking the time to do so.

Lots of love from the other half of the world,
Hermana Saunders

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Week 58: in which I can’t think of a clever title

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Dear friends and family,

IMPORTANT: This weekend is the patriotic holiday of Chile, so everything will be closed. That means that instead of writing on Monday, I’ll write the following Wednesday, Sept 20. This has been a public service announcement from yours truly.

It’s been an interesting change, being in a trio. The dynamics in a lesson are different, but one of the miracles of this week is that we actually teach pretty well together. 😀 Often in trios, one or two of the companions talk a lot and the third doesn’t say much, but it hasn’t happened very often with us. I’m grateful for what I’ve learned from Hermana Lopez and Hermana Cuevas; they’ve helped me find a new way to study, and as I applied it, I’ve found that my studies are more focused on my investigators, and I am able to find more specific answers. It’s been a blessing. It’s been fun to be with just Latinas because we can help each other with our respective languages. I can ask them about anything during the day and vice versa, and yesterday Hermana Cuevas and I read the Bible together, she in English and I in Spanish. I’m grateful for that opportunity. I offered to talk with them mostly in English in the house, but that’s proven more difficult than talking in Spanish 24/7!

On Tuesday the training hermanas, Hermana da Silva and Hermana Chavez, came to work with me in my sector. It rained all day and all of our plans fell through, but we laughed a lot and invented a song about contacting. I’m very grateful for these sisters, who have shown an enormous amount of love and dedication in the work of the Lord. We are definitely blessed to have them in the zone.

Some of my favorite miracles from this week:

1. Our weekly planning session, even with the two sectors, was effective and timely. The hermana caps [Note: I think she means the training hermanas? — AnnMarie] were also able to give us some great advice for how to improve, and we came up with a few new ideas for finding.

2. We found a family that’s excited to see the missionaries again after a few years. The mom really wants to know if the church is true; she says that the church has always called her attention, although she’s not sure why. I’m excited to teach them.

3. Sunday in church was just really great. One speaker talked about the young rich man’s question, “What lack I yet?” It’s a question I want to always keep in mind, especially when I think I’ve done enough or am tempted to judge others. I love the guidance and enlightenment we can find from the scriptures.

On Sunday we spent a couple hours helping a less-active family that’s coming back to church. They have a wool business and needed help spooling (is that a word?) their wool yarn. It was cool because the sister showed us how the wool is carded, washed, dyed, spun, and then spooled to sell in the market. We had a lot of fun with the family, and one of the sisters thought I was a native speaker! 😀 That made me happy.

On Saturday we had an open house in the church in Coronel. That was a lot of fun, and I got to work with Sister Jensen, the sister in charge of the legal stuff in the office. She’s just barely learning Spanish, so she didn’t say much, but her love for these people showed in the way she hugged them or shook their hands. It was also just a wonderful experience to testify over and over again of the love and mission of our Savior Jesus Christ. I love open houses!

The work of the Lord continues here in Chile, with miracles in every day. I’m so grateful for this opportunity to help others to “come unto Christ and be perfected in Him.” I’m far from perfect, but I know that God can use the most imperfect and honest effort for the good of His children. He loves and knows each one of His children perfectly and personally, and He’ll always stretch out His hands to those who will take hold.

I hope you all have a wonderful week! Be safe, be kind. and be smart. As my dad once told us, “Live so that you have widely varied memories but no regrets.”

Love from the bottom-half of the world,

Hermana Saunders

Week 57: in which things get shaken up a little bit

Dear friends and family,

It’s never a good thing when the mission president calls and asks to talk to both you and your companion. President May called us on Saturday morning to send Hermana Scholl to Temuco; a sister in that area had to go home for health reasons, and Hermana Scholl was sent to replace her. She left early this morning, and we definitely miss her a lot. I’m staying here in Arauco in a trio with Hermana Cuevas from Colombia and Hermana Lopez from Honduras. We’re basically combining the two sectors for the next three weeks until the next cambio. It’ll be an adventure. 😬  I was very sad to see Hermana Scholl go, but I trust in the inspiration of my leaders, and I know that we’ll be okay. There are two constants that I can always count on: my Heavenly Father and the Savior’s Atonement. It’s hard to say “Thy will be done,” but I know that God has wisdom in all things. The rest of this cambio will be a growing experience for the four of us, and I’m trying to keep that in mind as we face this next week. I’m grateful for every opportunity to grow, although it comes as a surprise and a challenge. I’m also very grateful that Hermana Scholl is not headed home and that there’s always the possibility of being in the same zone or at the very least seeing each other at Christmas. I’m grateful for all that I’ve learned with her, and I look forward to learning even more with Hermanas Cuevas and Lopez.

All of Chile is getting excited for September 18, the celebration of the independence of Chile. All of the shops are selling every kind of things with the Chilean colors, and the branch is gearing up for one heck of a party. We’re all excited. 😀

This week I studied Ephesians 4 in the Bible, which is an absolutely fantastic chapter. The chapter contains all kinds of admonitions from the apostle Paul, and I love it because it’s applicable to every kind of person. I highlighted much of that chapter, and I came away with a lot to think about. I invite you to read it this week, and let me know what you thought!

On Tuesday we took Jorge and Valentina on a tour of the church. It was truly a special experience. There was such a peaceful feeling in the chapel, and they said that they weren’t worried anymore about going to church–on the contrary, Jorge was really excited for Sunday to come. They said that they felt that this was really where God wanted them to be. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to share with them. They’re reading together in the Book of Mormon and praying. They both accepted fecha [Note: I think this is a baptismal date. –AnnMarie], and I’m excited to teach them more. Hermana Lopez, who found them with me during a zone finding activity, is also really excited to be able to teach them, so I’m glad she’ll have that chance.

Another miracle occurred on Saturday. As we headed to look for another investigator, an old lady standing at her gate called to us as we passed. She told us that her husband was inside with a hemorrhage, and she, basically invalid herself, wasn’t able to make her way to the hospital across the street nor had a telephone to call an ambulance. We raced across the street to bring a medic over, who took care of the situation. We haven’t heard more of that family yet, but we’re going to pass by later. I’m grateful that God put us in the path of His children who need our help. We had thought about heading to a different place to contact, but now I understand why we felt better about visiting that investigator (who actually couldn’t meet with us that day).

Thank you all for your love, support, and prayers. I’ll especially appreciate them this week as we make this transition. It’ll be interesting but not impossible. 😀 I hope you all have a great week! Remember who you are! Be safe, be smart, be kind.

Love from Chile,
Hermana Saunders

Week 56: in which members pop out of the woodwork

Dear family and friends,

The interesting thing about working in Arauco is that almost every single family has a least one member of the church in it, be that a parent, sibling, or cousin. Sometimes it’s almost impossible to distinguish the investigators from the inactive members. One of the people we met this week is married to a lady who was baptized with her parents when she was young but is now Evangelist (is that what it is in English? I really don’t know…).

Hermana Scholl and I are working hard this cambio to work better with the members. It’s been an interesting but rewarding endeavor. Turns out one of our news from this week was the elementary gym teacher of a member, and other members have hit it off really well with other investigators. We also started a missionary BINGO this week: Those who wanted to participate received a 3×3 bingo card with 9 different ways to participate in the missionary work, and the first to fill in their card wins brownies from us. It was received with a rather lukewarm reaction, but we’re hoping for great results as the members realize that there is so much they can do to share the gospel. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with them and reach out to them. I’m learning more and more how essential the members are, and I’m so grateful for those who are self-motivated to share in the work.

More Sunday miracles this week: We found a new investigator, Ivan, who’s met with missionaries many times before but mostly just to listen. We had a fantastic lesson with him, and he accepted a baptismal date! He’s committed to go to church, to read, and to pray about the message. He’s very receptive and reminds a lot of Juan Macaya, an investigator who just got baptized in Villa Obispo, my former sector. We also were able to meet up with Valentina for the first time in a while, and she’s been reading in the Book of Mormon! Little bits at a time, but she is reading. The last time we met she had a big problem with Moroni’s visits to Joseph Smith, but she said that as she’s read and understood more about the story, she feels her doubts subsiding. She also accepted a baptismal date for the end of September, and we’re going to do a tour of the church with her and her boyfriend, Jorge. They both just really want to learn and do the right thing, and I’ve really come to love them. And then at night, we had a great lesson with Victoria and her son Abraham, our miracles from last Sunday. They’re so ready to learn, and they just soak up things like a sponge. They weren’t able to go to church this past weekend, but they’re going to do what’s possible to assist [Note: I think she means “attend”? –AnnMarie] next week. Victoria’s husband, Nelson, is a little less excited about our visits; he seems to be a little wary of Mormons, but we’ll win him over, and he’ll see we’re not so scary. 😉

Just about every single cita fell through this week, but we’ve had fun together. We laugh a lot together, and it’s been cool to see how our Spanish has improved in just a couple weeks of talking Spanish 24/7. I’m learning a lot about communication and service, and it’s a great experience. I’m grateful for each day that I have to improve, and I’m grateful to look back and see that I’m not the same Hermana Saunders that started the mission a year ago. The Atonement is real, my friends.

I’m blessed to know each and every one of you. I hope you always remember how much your Heavenly Father loves you. Have a great week!

Love from Chile,
Hermana Saunders

Week 55: in which absolutely nothing goes as planned

But hey, that’s the mission! 😀

Dear family and friends,

It’s been a good week. A lot of our plans fell through, but each day was an opportunity to laugh a lot together and look for the miracles in every day. It rained a lot this week, but we also saw some pretty incredible rainbows. 😀 I love rainbows because they’re a symbol of God’s promises. I love the scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants that says, “Who am I, saith the Lord, to promise and not fulfill?” [Note: She’s talking about D&C 58:31, which says, “Who am I, saith the Lord, that have promised and have not fulfilled?” –AnnMarie] I know that whenever we do our part, God will always always always fulfill His part. We are literally His children, and He has so many blessings in store for us.

On Sunday we had a pretty sweet miracle. All week this week we searched and prayed for a family, but by Sunday night, only one person (who is really great :D) had wanted to see us again. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, everything besides English classes fell through, and no one had gone to church on Sunday in Arauco. As we contacted a street on Sunday night, we found some promising futures, but no one had let us in. At the very end of the night, we contacted a house, and a little boy answered the door. We asked if we could talk with his mom, and he went to get her. When she came to the door, she enthusiastically let us in, and we had a great lesson with her and her 10-year-old (and very intelligent) son, Abraham. I asked them what they would like to ask God in an interview, and he replied, “What’s the meaning of life?” Well. We talked about how we can find the answers to such questions thanks to the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They’re a family of 5 (the husband was working so we didn’t meet him then). The mom, Victoria, and Abraham committed to going to church on Sunday, and Victoria is going with us to an activity on Saturday. They’re excited to learn more, and we have another cita with them this next week. We felt very much like we had our own fourth floor, last door moment, and we’re very grateful for this wonderful miracle.

It’s a short one this week, but know that I love being here as a missionary in Chile. It’s a privilege to be a part of the Lord`s work and serving His children. He knows what they need and where they are, and He can help me find and help them. He knows who you are, and He loves you very much.

I hope you all have a great week! Be safe, be kind, be smart, be helpful. And always remember who you are!!

Love from Chile,
Hermana Saunders

Week 54: in which there was much rejoicing

Yaaayy…

Dearest friends and family,

Some of you will get that reference, but if you don’t it’s okay. 😛 [Note: I think she’s referring to this scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. — AnnMarie] We are now the very happy occupants [sic] [Note: I think she means owners — hopefully they don’t live in the dryer… — AnnMarie] of a brand-new dryer!! *insert very happy dance* It actually came a couple weeks ago, but just this week we were able to install it. But it is a wonderful blessing. Very few people have dryers here because electricity is really expensive, but most homes have wood-burning stoves, so they can dry their clothes in that way. As missionaries, we don’t have that luxury, and in the winter, it rains so often that things take FOREVER to dry. So now we are very happy missionaries. 😀

In other news, it’s been a good week. We received transfers on Saturday night, and Hermana Scholl and I are staying together!! Wahoo! But we’re saying farewell for now to Hermana Vasquez, who is headed to Los Àngeles this transfer. (Yay LA!! :D) The training sisters challenged us to a 30-day fast from things that are keeping us from progressing, which includes a 30-day English fast. *dun dun DUUUNH* We’ve now gone 3 days and counting without talking in English (with the exception of a few slip-ups. :P). I’m grateful for this challenge because I know it will help me be a better missionary, companion, and person in general. It’s not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be, and we still talk a lot together. I think Hermana Scholl is finding that she knows more than she thought she did. We also found TEN new people to teach this week, including several families. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to help these brothers and sisters of mine find the great joy that the gospel brings. It’s a privilege to be a part of that process, and I’m so grateful for this time.

Wednesday was interesting because Hermana Vasquez–after a rather stressful morning–was taken to the hospital in Concepciòn for some really strong virus that completely wiped her out. She’s perfectly fine now, but she had us worried. I’m so thankful for good health care.

Later on Wednesday we did divisions with the training sisters, which was fun. I was with Hermana Chavez, who was my second comp in Temuco! We talked a lot about Temuco and how we’ve changed since then. It was good to work with her again.

Saturday night we had a branch party in which we created the “longest completo in history.” We set up tables from one end of the gym to the other and placed gigantic hot dog buns end-to-end the entire length of the gym. Then we all worked together to put the completos together and enjoyed the results. 😀 If I can I’ll send a picture. 😀 We had to leave early for an appointment, but the branch kept the party going with karaoke for a few more hours after that. We’ve got some pretty good voices here in Arauco.

Well, time’s about up, so I’ll close with my testimony. I know that God guides this work and that He loves and is always aware of His children. I know that this is His work and His church. I know that living the gospel brings greater peace, joy, and unity that cannot be found in any other place. I know that Christ is my Savior and that through Him I can become a better person and find peace and forgiveness. There is no pain or sin too great to be healed by His sacrifice. Trust in Him. Know that I love yo all!! Be safe, be kind, be smart. And remember who yo are!

Love
Hermana Saunders

Week 53: in which we fail as ninjas

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Dear family and friends,

We’re in Coronel (about an hour an a half bus ride from Arauco) today to make sure Hermana Scholl stays legal, so I’m writing this from the first public library I’ve seen in a year. It feels good to be in a library; anyone who knows me knows that I’ve pretty much lived in the public and university libraries, so it feels like a bit of home. 😀

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On Tuesday we had a pretty cool miracle. We planned and practiced to teach Lesson 1 [about the Restoration] to our investigator Carlos because we thought he had read that pamphlet. However, we started the lesson, and he pulled out Lesson 3 [about the Gospel] and started talking about what called his attention and how he felt about it. I looked at my companion and then at Carlos, stowed my Lesson 1 pamphlet, pulled out Lesson 3, and began teaching Lesson 3. I explained about faith, then passed it to my comp to teach repentance. We finished a fantastic lesson, he accepted a baptismal date!!, and we left. As we walked away, Hermana Scholl looks at me and says, “I’ve never taught that lesson in my life!” But she had studied it. We laughed and thanked Heavenly Father for giving us the words to say to help His son progress.

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This week we tried a new way to find people to teach. Borrowing an idea from Hermana Custódio, we printed off some talks from Conference and left them on doorsteps in a street we had prayed about previously. On Saturday we went back to contact those houses and ask how they liked the talks. Well, the idea was to leave the talks without being seen, but it seemed like just as we got to the street, everyone was looking out their windows or leaving or fixing something in their car or coming home, which made it much more difficult to be invisible. Bueno…but we had fun trying to be inconspicuous and humming the Mission Impossible theme. Seems like a career as an FBI agent isn’t for me. 😛 I’ll just stick to editing or music therapy or something.  😝

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This Sunday I felt so grateful that the church is the same in every part of the world, no matter in which city or country. We didn’t have an investigator that attended at our chapel, BUT Carlos went to church in Concepcion! He was well-received there by the missionaries and had a great experience. He couldn’t stay for all three hours, but he wanted to. He accepted a baptismal date this week as well, and he sincerely wants to do what God requires of him.

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Well, that’s a bit of my week. I hope yours was also great and that you’ve found the  miracles in each day. I invite you all to read this talk [The Gift of Grace] on grace from Pres. Uchtdorf. I think it’s one of the best I’ve ever read and it helped me understand even better how God’s grace really changes my life.

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Know that I love you all! God is watching over you all and is mindful of your needs. When you leave your room in the morning, don’t forget to pray.

Love from Chile,
Hermana Saunders