Week 77: in which IT’S THE FINAL COUNTDOWN!

dunudunun! dudundundundun! dunudunun! 🤘
Dear family and friends,
Hermana Silva and I have been working hard to talk to everyone in the street, which has led to some interesting encounters. By now I’m pretty much used to the fact that everyone thinks we’re quite odd, but it’s been harder for my companion. I admire the fact that she tries so hard to talk to others and to break out of her shell. She’s helped me slow down (a little bit) in the street so that we don’t rush past the souls that are searching for the restored gospel. 🙂
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As I start the last week of my mission, I’m sad that I won’t be here to see my investigators get baptized. Matias, Scarlett, and Millaray were all so very close to baptism this cambio, but for reasons outside of our control as missionaries, now won’t be there time. But I have learned that faith simply cannot make others want to gain a testimony or get a job or whatnot; if it’s not the will of the Lord or even their own desire, it won’t happen. I just pray that the missionaries who come behind me will be in tune with the Spirit as they teach and will do all they can to help these people I’ve come to love.
BUT!! This weekend we have the privilege to see the baptism of the son of a recent convert! Teresita was baptized a couple years ago, and her son, Sebastian, turned 8 last month and is SUPER excited to get baptized. We’ve been teaching him the lessons, and with the help of his mom and aunt, he’s been reading and studying and thinking about everything we’ve taught him. I’m excited to teach him about the temple and proxy baptisms; he’s so excited for his own baptism, and I want to help him look forward to the temple and the opportunity to share this gift with his ancestors.
It was something wonderful to see the transmission [Note: I think she meant broadcast. –AnnMarie] with the new prophet. As President Nelson spoke, I felt a quiet and powerful confirmation that he has been called of God and prepared long before now to be our prophet and leader at this time. I’m grateful that God will never again leave us without the guide of a prophet. What a blessing.
This week we had a great lesson with Juri and Manuel, who are friends and employees of a member family, the Vilches. We taught the Plan of Salvation, and we invited another employee, Daniela, to listen as well. She listened with interest and was especially touched when we talked about the spirit world, where those who never had the opportunity to hear the gospel on earth will be able to receive it. Juri and Manuel are so excited to learn more, and they’re progressing well, thanks to the help of the Vilches. Now Daniela has the chance to learn about and accept this great message. I’m so excited to teach her!!
As I contemplate this past transfer, I’ve felt so very grateful for my time as a missionary. I haven’t met all of the goals I made for this cambio or for 2017, but I’ve grown a lot and learned so much. I’m definitely a better person, a better member, a better missionary than the Hermana Saunders who boarded the plane in August 2016. Some things I’ve learned:
  • to put Christ at the center of my life
  • a greater understanding of His marvelous atonement and what it means for me.
  • that people have the divine capacity to change, thanks to the same atonement.
  • to be more patient and less prideful (thanks to some often painful learning experiences)
  • to better manage my time and to do the more important things first, not just the most urgent.
  • Spanish! That has been a fun adventure. 😛
  • I’ve memorized the recipe for brownies and pancakes. 😀
  • how to cook and shop for one or two people
  • that weaknesses (such as being hopeless for directions) are often balanced with a strength (such as having absolutely no shame about asking for directions ;D

I’ve learned so much more, but I’d need a couple notebooks to fill y’all in on all of it, so I’ll leave it at that. Know that I love my Father in Heaven and my Savior and that I’ve come to know them more personally. I know that the message to which I’ve dedicated 18 months is true. God has restored His perfect gospel and guides us today through living prophets. What a comforting truth.

I’ll see several of you very soon. (One week! I can’t believe it…) I hope this email finds you all safe and happy and faithful. Have a wonderful week, my friends!

love from Chile,

Hermana Saunders
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Week 76: in which [there is still no subject line]

Dear family and friends,

We had another week of miracles and tender mercies. TWICE this week members passed by just in time to give us a lift when we thought we were going to be very late. We were finally able to contact an investigator whom we haven’t seen the entire cambio [transfer]. And Hermana Leslie went to church on Sunday!! This was the greatest miracle of the week; she’s been so hesitant to go I wasn’t sure that she’d go while I was here. But she was ready and waiting when we went to pick her up on Sunday morning, and she said that while it was VERY different from what she’s used to, she liked it. Her progress might be a little slower than others, but she has shown a lot of faith in this time that her sister has been in the hospital and is reading more often in the Book of Mormon.

We’re prepping for Matias’s baptism this weekend! He’s still nervous about a lot of things, and he’ll need your prayers this week. His immediate family is full-on supportive, but a few other family members are a little less so. He’s been listening to the missionaries for more than a year now, and I’m excited to help him take this next step. 😀

This week has also been a game of stop-and-go with the last-minute arrangements that will allow me to legally leave the country in two weeks. 😛 Temuco, which has the closest foreigner office (is that how you say that in English??), is two hours away, so it’s involved a bit of traveling. The fun part is that I got to use the little bit of French that I remember to talk to a couple Haitians that were there at the same time. 😀

Being close to the end of my mission has helped me appreciate each moment and the little things more. District meetings, contacting, sharing the gospel with my seatmates on the bus…all of what a mission consists of is wonderful, and I am grateful for this rewarding time that my Father has given me to work hand-in-hand with Him for the blessing of His children. 😊  I have loved this time, and I’m sad to see it end soon. But in the meantime, I’ll be working hard to make every day count and to help more people to come unto Christ.

I hope you all have a wonderful week! I love you all! Be safe, be kind, be faithful.

Lots of love,
Hermana Saunders

Week [75: in which there isn’t a subject line]

Mision Concep Sur Alta-193

Dear family and friends,

We’ve had a week full of tender mercies and milagritos. During a zone “attack”, we met to eat lunch together, but my comp and I didn’t have forks (because in Cunco we have been fork-less for a while now). When we went to buy some plastics ones, we ran into a member of the ward, who offered to lend us hers! Then on Wednesday, as we were tracting in Melipeuco, I thought of an investigator who had showed some interest in the last transfer, but I couldn’t remember her name nor her address. After calling a member, we got her name and relative location. I still couldn’t find the direction in my agenda, and even following the member’s directions we didn’t find it. So we went to visit someone else, and as we turned the corner, I recognized the house of Jenifer, the investigator we were looking for! 😄  We had a good lesson with her and her daughter, Conni, who are very interested in the Plan of Salvation. And on Sunday, our investigator Matìas came and brought a friend! His friend enjoyed sacrament meeting and agreed to meet with us later. It’s wonderful to see how God is mindful of all the little things. 😊

We met a man this week named Fernando. He was a reference from the church system, and we’ve been trying for weeks to set up an appointment with him. We met up with him after work this week and had a great chat. He’s seen a lot in his life, and he asks why he should believe in God. He was very interested in what we had to say about trials and the role that God plays in our lives. We left him with a Plan of Salvation pamphlet, and he says he really wants us to talk with his wife too. 😀 I’m so excited to share this with them both and to help them find peace and joy in Christ. 🙂

It’s been a good week here in Chile, and I’m grateful for each day that I have to serve as a missionary. It’s been the best 17 1/2 months of my life, in which I have grown (in more ways than one…:P) and felt so much the love of God for me and for my brothers and sisters around me.

I hope you all have a great week! May you see the miracles and tender mercies in each day. Be safe, be kind, be patient. And always remember who you are!!

Love,
Hermana Saunders

Week 74: in which another year’s over, and a new one’s just begun

Dear friends and family,

Happy New Year!! Woo! I hope everyone had a safe and fun holiday. 😀 We spent a couple hours on New Year’s Eve with Hermana Ines, one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met. She taught us how to make sopaipillas, which is basically Mexican fry bread and is delicious. 😄  We basically stuffed ourselves silly as Hermana Ines shared stories about her family and experiences. I have learned a lot from her, and her example of perseverance and love for the gospel is inspiring.

We’ve had a lot of fun this week as we’ve worked harder to have lessons in which members accompany us. We had a fantastic lesson about the Book of Mormon with the Vilches family and Yuri and Manuel, a couple from Colombia that is working for them and are just incredible. 😀 They are so receptive, and we felt the testimony of the Spirit as we listened to President Monson’s testimony of the Book of Mormon. We talked about the guide and comfort that we can find through daily study of the Book of Mormon, and I know that it will change their lives. 😀 I know that it is truly God’s word and that it can change lives and hearts as we apply its teachings. For those of you who haven’t read it from cover to cover yet, read it. Study it. And then ask God if it’s true. You don’t have to be a scriptorian to receive a witness from your Father that it truly is His word and that it is for you.

One of the members also helped us out a lot with Barbara, who we met in the bus terminal last week. She’s really cool and a lot of fun; she said that the next time we went, she would have Mango Sour to share with us. I, not knowing what the heck that was–and thinking it was some kind of juice–said of course. 😀 And then Scarlett, the member who was with us, explained that mango sour is pisco–alcohol. 😬  So we politely declined. So that was a fun…Thank goodness for members who speak Chileno! 😆

One of the miracles this week was finding several family members of Javiera, a girl we’re teaching who is very excited to learn. Every time we’ve passed by to teach her and her mom, Tila, the rest of the family has always stopped to listen for at least part of the lesson, but they’ve always left before we could really talk to them. But on Friday, when we visited them with a couple from the branch, they all stayed until the end, and they agreed to another visit! The kids are much more excited than their parents and really wanted to go to church, but they weren’t able to make it. But they said that they enjoy listening to us because it’s easy to learn with us; they learn more and can understand things better. I know that in part it’s the work of the Spirit, and I’m so excited to teach them about the Restoration.

As you think about your new year’s resolutions for this year, I’d like to invite you all to remember the Savior and His atonement. You see, it’s not just for sins and sorrows but also for whatever changes we want to make to become more like Him. When you’re frustrated or feel like you just won’t make it, remember the enabling power of His atonement, that you are a child of God, and that change is truly possible. I love you all, and I pray that this year may be full of miracles and good changes.

Lots of love from Chile,
Hermana Saunders

Week 73: in which we have an almost-white Christmas

Dear family and friends,

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday, like we had here in Cunco. 😊  This year Hermana Silva and I did something a little different from the traditional Chilean Christmas: we went caroling! A family from the branch accompanied us to visit a few investigators, part-member families, and less-active members, and we sang Christmas hymns and left a small gift for the family. I hope that they felt our love and concern for them through this little act of service. It was fun, and it brought a special spirit to the day.

On Christmas day Hermano Carlos and Hermana Patricia invited us to visit the Conguillio National Park that’s in our sector. The weather was perfect, and the park is gorgeous. 😀 It includes a volcano and snow-capped mountains; in the winter the whole park is covered with snow, but at this time of year, the snow was too far up on the mountain to reach in the time we had. 🙁  But we had a great time adventuring and admiring the beautiful world that God has given us. 🤗

On Wednesday we witnessed the miracle of a family who seeks to share the gospel. The Vilches family have their own business, and they contracted a Columbian family to work for them. This family is just great. 😁  They’re hard workers, and they really want to find the truth. They’ve seen a lot and suffered a lot–they’re working to bring their last son from Columbia to Chile to be with them–and the message of the Restoration really called their attention. They attended the branch party on Friday and church on Sunday, and the husband, Manuel, said he had never felt so good in a church. The branch gave them a warm welcome, and the Vilches are always present to answer questions when we aren’t there. I know that the Lord brought them to little Melipeuco (a pueblito in our sector where the Vilches live) in His perfect timing and with the perfect family.

In my studies I came across a phrase that has run through my head this week: “Am I living in such a way that the Lord can work through me?” I’ve come to realize that God has given His children many wonderful things to enjoy but that He expects us to develop and use the gifts and talents He’s given us to bless others. He wants us to change the world little by little and to “do many [good] things of [our] own free will” (D&C 58:27).

I’ve also taken a challenge given several months ago to study all of the references to Jesus Christ in the scriptures. It has been an enormously rewarding experience, and I’ve grown closer to my Savior as I’ve more about His life and ministry. The hymns have become so much more personal to me as I sing, “I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me, confused at the grace that so fully He proffers me” (I Stand All Amazed). It really is incredible to think that He meekly suffered all for the love of His Father in heaven and for me. His example is unique and incredible, and I’m grateful for each day that I’ve had to serve as His representative.

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We found out yesterday that Karin, one of our investigators, suffered a cerebral stroke and is in a pretty bad state in the hospital. It will mean a long time of recovery and trial for both her and her family. Please keep them in your prayers.

I hope you all have a wonderful week! Be safe, be kind, be faithful. And always remember who you are!

 

Love,
Hermana Saunders

Week 72: in which we “attack” Carahue

Dear family and friends,

Today is our p-day because yesterday we had TRANSFERS. dun dun DUUUNNN. Yesterday I was very sad to say goodbye to Hermana Milne, who was transferred to the other end of the mission. 😛 But I’m looking forward to the miracles and fun times of this transfer with Hermana Silva, from Peru. She’s quiet but fun, and she’s a convert of a little less than a year! She has an incredible testimony, and she’s a hard worker. 😀

Monday was a lot of fun because we had a sports championship with the other a neighboring zone. 😀 We played a series of games in small groups. My team got creamed, but we had fun. 😀

On Wednesday we had a grand total of 0 people in English classes in Melipeuco, a tiny neighboring city, BUT we had a fantastic lesson with Scarlett, who is so close to getting baptized. She loves the gospel, and it’s been a great experience to see how the light of Christ has brightened in her face.  I love her so much!! ❤😄

Carahue

On Thursday we had a zone “attack” a little different in Carahue. We set up basically the same way as before, but this time we focused more on Christmas and the church’s #IluminaElMundo (#LightTheWorld) campaign (https://www.mormon.org/spa/navidad). We talked about the real meaning of Christmas with those who passed by, and they shared their thoughts on a whiteboard and cards. It was fun to work together with the zone and to see people from all walks of life talk about Christ and what He means to them.

Cautin Z Carahue

Wboard Carahue

The miracles of this week have been lots of tender little mercies that have shown us how much God loves us. I was really sad to say goodbye to Hermana Milne, but when we got up early on Monday to go to the bus terminal, we woke up to an absolutely gorgeous sunrise. Sunrises are something special for the both of us, so I’m grateful for that last little moment I had to share with her. Earlier in the week, we were able to follow a very subtle prompting from the Spirit that led us to a sister on the anniversary of her mother’s death, and we were able to help her feel a little less down. Several times we caught the bus barely in time to not be late instead of missing it and having to wait another half hour. 😛 We had seats on the bus after a very long day, so we could rest instead of traveling standing up in the bus. I’m grateful for these little reminders that God is always mindful of His children. 😄🌟

I love being a missionary. It’s the best thing I could be doing with my life right now, and it’s such a blessing to share this gospel that has brought so much joy to my life. I know that I am a daughter of God, who loves me, and I’ve come to really feel that these people, those who surround me, are my brothers and sisters, children of God who are trying to find their way back to Him. 😀

I hope you all have a wonderful week! May you have a truly special Christmas. 😊🎄🌟

Love,
Hermana Saunders

Week 71: in which it’s beginning to look a little like Christmas

Dear friends and family,

Chile is very different in how it decorates for holidays. Electricity is uber expensive, so the houses generally don’t have a lot of lights. BUT most of the houses have cute little random decorations that have probably been there since last Christmas. XD It cracks me up. And thanks to my marvelous family, I have my own little stocking hung by my bed with care, and I put up a cute little nativity set that I found a while ago. 😀 I love nativity sets and it’s always been the first thing to go up in my family, so I was so happy to have that. 😀 It helps me remember the reason this time is filled with joy and peace and good will towards me. What greater message can we share than the fact that the Savior of the world was born and that He was born, lived, died, and was resurrected for each and every one of us? 🌟

On Sunday we prayed for a few miracles in specific: that three of the families we’re teaching would go to church together, that we would find 5 news with the plentiful time we had to contact referencias, and that Maria Cofre, one of our investigators, would make it to church. Bueno. Neither of those families went to church, Maria Cofre had visitors that made it impossible for her to leave, and we found only one new. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t see miracles nor that God didn’t answer prayers that day. Those investigators didn’t go to church, but we were able to have a beautiful lesson about the plan of salvation with one of the families that evening, in which the dad finally showed genuine interest. And they genuinely want to change their lives. Even though Maria couldn’t go to church, we had a member who had a car that was willing and able to pick her up. We didn’t become desaminated [Note: I think she means ‘devastated’. –AnnMarie] when things didn’t go as planned, and we did finally find an address that at first we thought didn’t exist. And Scarlett, who was on vacation in Santiago, went to church there!! And she loved it. So it was a great day, and the ending of a good week. 😄

Sometimes it seems like God doesn’t hear or answer our prayers because we can’t see the answers, or maybe it seems like the answers don’t come. But I promise that He is always listening and that He cares very much about your needs, triumphs, and goals. Sometimes the answer might be no, or wait, or maybe it’ll be different from what you want. Maybe it’ll come through another person, or maybe it depends on the agency of someone else. But if you can’t see the answer, please don’t give up. Please don’t lose faith. Trust that He will “will direct thee for good” as you counsel with Him. Be patient, be obedient, and be humble. He loves you. Never doubt that.

I love you all very much. I’m grateful for all I’ve learned from each of you and for the influence you’ve had in my life. I hope you all have a wonderful week and that you make Christmas something special this year. 😀 Be safe, be kind, be faithful.

Love from Chile,
Hermana Saunders