Week 70: in which we’re all together again

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Dear friends and family,

This week we had the mission Christmas devotional, in which all 170-something missionaries and our leaders met together in Los Àngeles (I got to see my old sector!!!) and enjoyed a few uplifting hours together. We did a “flash choir” in the central plaza, which was cool; we entered from the four corners of the plaza singing Christmas hymns and then went about contacting the people who passed by. Several of the members of Villa Obispo were in the plaza at that time, so I had the wonderful opportunity to see them again. 😊😊  It was also wonderful to see several friends from the mission. I get to work with such great people, de verdad. ❤

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Yesterday we again saw the miracle of working with members. Scarlett has been rather hesitant to go full-steam-ahead with her baptism for the 16th; she accepted that date as a goal and is keeping her commitments, but she still feels insecure about baptism. We had a lesson with her and Hermana Maria Gutierrez, who was baptized two years ago. She shared her conversion story and the doubts and questions she had and how she overcame them, and Scarlett said that it was exactly how she feels. Maria passed through much of the same experiences in her journey that Scarlett has, and it was wonderful to see that connection and to see a few lightbulbs go off for Scarlett. Now she’s more sure of her choice to be baptized, and she says that she’s so much happier as she’s listened to the missionaries and applied the teachings of the gospel in her life. I love her so much! 😄

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In the lesson with Scarlett, she said something I found very profound: In regards to doing something scary or very different, she said, “You don’t leave the comfort zone; it expands as you take steps forward.” We can apply that to whatever part of life. The great thing about life is that it’s flexible; although at first change is hard, it becomes easier because God gives us more strength to keep moving forward. I loved that thought.

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On Friday, it was our turn for a zone “attack”! 😀 We met together in the plaza in Cunco and did the same activity as before. In two hours, we received 52 references!! 😀 Hermana Milne and I are so excited and working hard to contact each one of them, and I can feel that there are many miracles waiting for us in the lists of names.

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I love being a missionary. It’s such a privilege to work with Heavenly Father in the work of salvation for His children. I’ve come to really feel that these people are my brothers and sisters. We are God’s children, and He’s always aware of our needs, triumphs, and struggles. He’ll never leave us to fend for ourselves–unless we deliberately choose to walk a different path.

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I hope you all have a wonderful week! As you prepare for Christmas this year, think of what the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ has meant for your life. I love you all!!

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Love,
Hernana Saunders

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Week 69: in which we bring Thanksgiving to Chile

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Dear family and friends,

This week I am grateful for many things, not the least of which is my amazing, sweet companion and the many miracles of this week. I wanted to share a few of the miracles from this week:

  1. My companion had lost her wallet, and we were worried because it had a few official documents in it as well as money. But we went to the cyber one day to actualizar referencias, and the owner said someone had turned it in to him! Later, on the way home a different day, we ran into the couple that found it and had a nice chat with them. They agreed to listen to us another day. 😁
  2. On Saturday, we met with an investigator, Hermana Tila, and her 16-year-old daughter, Javiera. They’re passing through some really rough family problems and have a lot of questions. It was wonderful to be able to share a little about the Plan of Salvation and the Atonement with them, and when we invited Javiera to go to church, she accepted immediately. On Sunday morning she wasn’t feeling very well, but she got up and went anyway. She says that she’s looking for real peace and healing, and I know she’ll be able to find it with the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
  3. Javiera, Estefania, Scarlett, AND Millaray all went to church!! Millaray always goes with her family, but we were a little more worried about the other three. But a few days before Estefania had said, “No matter what happens, I’m going, even if I go alone.” And Scarlett brought a friend, Alejandro, who also enjoyed church! On Friday Scarlett had several questions about tithing, and on Sunday all of sacrament meeting was about commandments and tithing. She was amazed to find her answer so quickly and clearly, and she felt great in church. I know it will make a difference in her week. Now just needs to act according to the other answers she’s been given!

This past Monday we celebrated Thanksgiving early with our own dinner. 🦃 Our turkey was chicken patties, I made some pretty great mashed potatoes (if I do say so myself 😎), and we boiled some beans and corn. The only thing that was missing was the traditional Saunders pies, but it really was fun to put everything together together, and it was nice to kinda have Thanksgiving. We even had left-overs! 😀

On Wednesday we had another zone “attack” in Nueva Imperial, another sector close by. The weather was fantastic, and we had a lot of fun inviting everyone who passed by to listen for a couple minutes about the Book of Mormon and the Restoration. At the end of about 2 hours, 95 people had said they wanted to hear more!! It was so cool. At one point, a man stopped by the table and frowned at the pamphlets about Joseph Smith. I thought, “Chuta, he’s going to argue how we worship this “Joe Smith” and who knows what else.” But as he talked with the Hatches, a missionary couple who are in charge of these activities, they explained about Joseph Smith and the restoration with simple and honest testimonies in the Spanish they knew. During the conversation the man’s face changed, and he said, “Yeah, okay. I’d like to hear more.” Even if he only listens a couple times or even just once, it was incredible to see how the Hatches’ soft answers turned away his wrath (Proverbs 15:1).

The miracles continue in this pueblito in Chile. The mission is a wonderful experience, and it’s really changed my life because I’ve allowed it change me. I’m so grateful for every day that I have to share my testimony of my Savior Jesus Christ and of His great love and mercy. There is nothing else that could bring me such joy and satisfaction than to see others allowing Him to change them as well. Thank you for all your love and support that has made me the person I am today. I love you all and hope you have a wonderful week!

Love from Chile,
Hermana Saunders

P.S. Look up the Light the World initiative that the church is heading. It`s fantastic! 😀  https://www.mormon.org/spa/navidad/25-maneras-25-dias [Note: And here’s the English link, too. — AnnMarie]

Week 68: in which we have a great week

Dear family and friends,
Hermana Milne and I are having a great time here in Cunco. It’s a beautiful city and so full of potential. 😁😄

One of my favorite parts of the mission is working with the members. This week 3 out of 5 of our “news” were from part-member families (PF) or referrals from members. We’re teaching Milleray, who is the daughter of very faithful members, and is very excited to prepare herself for baptism. She’s so cute!! 😊😊 On Monday we had family home evening with a PF: Hermana Ivone is living with Hermano Claudio and has been investigating the church for about a year and goes to church every week. They invited a lonely sister from the branch as well as their less-active and non-member teenage sons and their friend. The boys have a lot of questions and don’t act like they’re “too cool” for “church stuff,” but at the same time it’s definitely been interesting teaching teenagers again. We pray every day for teaching ideas and ways to reach their hearts, and we’ve been able to find answers in meetings and studies, which have been blessings. It’s still a challenge, but they have the full support and love of Claudio and Ivone.

That same Monday we set another cita for Saturday, where we met Pablo, another friend of the family. He’s a kid who’s seen a lot and is just not sure what to believe; he told us that he’s pretty much set on not believing in anything. He listened and asked questions in the cita, but he said he wasn’t interested in listening to us again. Imagine our surprise and happiness when he came to church with the family on Sunday! He and Matias, Ivone’s son, participated in Gospel Principles, and I’m sure he went home with a lot to think about. I hope he will take the chance to keep participating in church and in the lessons with us because I know it’ll help him a lot in his life.

On Friday we had an absolutely spectacular attack in Temuco. (An attack is an activity in which a bunch of missionaries work in the same area to find new people to teach.) We set up a series of activities that took about 10 minutes to complete and talked about the Book of Mormon and the Restoration. We set up in front of the college and talked to everyone who passed. We kept busy for about 3 hours and ended the activity with about 90 references for all over southern Chile. It was so much fun and an incredible experience to see so many people passando and taking interest in the gospel. I know it will result in many miracles, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to be part of it. 😁😊

We started teaching English classes on Tuesday and Thursday here in Cunco and Wednesday in Melipeuco (another pueblito close by). We started on Thursday, and we had fun talking about the billions of sounds in the English language. 😛 Sometimes I honestly feel sorry for those who learn English; the pronunciation is so dang complicated. But Spanish is just spelled like it sounds, which has been great. 😀

If you’ll please pray hard for our investigator Scarlett. She has 22 años [in other words, she’s 22 years old. — AnnMarie] and is so close to taking the step of baptism but she’s afraid of what others may say and also that it won’t make any difference in her life. She is just so good; she loves the Book of Mormon and has learned so much in a short time. She says that she’s pretty sure she knows what the answer is, but she’s unsure of herself. It’s been helpful to visit her with members; the other day we went with a couple youth, Scarlett and Jessy, who really reached out to her. I know that she’ll eventually be able to overcome this fear that is keeping her from making the best decision of her life.

This week I finished the Book of Mormon for the second [time]. It was a wonderful experience, and I learned a lot about myself and my Savior. As I read, I felt once again the quiet reassurance that it really is the word of God and that the stories in it really happened. If you haven’t studied the Book of Mormon, please read it and pay attention to what happens. I promise it will change your life for the best if you let it. I know it’s changed mine.

I love you all!! Be safe, be kind, be faithful. And remember who you are!

Love from Chile,
Hermana Saunders

Week 67: in which Hermana Saunders goes back to her roots

Dear friends and family,
This week I traveled eight hours to the beautiful pueblito of Cunco, a tiny town that’s close to Temuco, where I started my mission! As the bus entered Temuco on Tuesday, I honestly felt like I was coming home. It was the weirdest but beautiful feeling; everything was familiar: the sound of the city, the rhythm of the traffic, the smell of fresh bread in the air. It’s good to be here again, and I’m really excited for the rest of this transfer with my new companion, Hermana Milne. Turns out she’s from Saint George and went to SUU! 😀 She`s a lot of fun; she has a little more than 4 months in the mission and has a ton of energy for work. We’re gonna rock Cunco. 😀

This week I got to know some of our investigators, and I already love them. On Tuesday I met Estefania, a mom of three cute little boys who lives with her boyfriend. She is so receptive and loves the Book of Mormon; she says that as she’s made the effort to read each day, she’s felt calmer and more together, and her family life is stronger and better. Yesterday we explained a little about temples, and she was amazed to know that it’s possible to be a family after death. On Thursday we had a lesson with Scarlett, who has just soaked in the gospel. She’s been looking for relief from past mistakes, and she was amazed and deeply touched by the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. On Friday I met Lesli and Javier, another couple who are living together with their 2-year-old daughter. They are looking for the truth because they don’t feel comfortable in any of the churches. They were amazed by the thought of prophets in our day, and they’ve enjoyed reading the Book of Mormon. Their daughter took off with part of our object lesson, but even with that, we felt a powerful spirit as Hermana Milne and I testified that God still talks to His children and that He still guides them through His prophets. I’m so excited to help these families find greater peace and strength through the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. There is really no better place for families and individuals.

It’s a shorter one this week. Know that I love you all and that you are all children of a loving Heavenly Father. Trust that He knows you and can help you with whatever problem you have. Be safe, be kind, be grateful. And always remember who you are!!

Love,
Hermana Saunders

Week 66: in which we make gospel panqueques

Dear friends and family,

Have I used that line before? I can’t remember…but we did it again! On Thursday we had family home evening with the Santander family. The mom, Jocelyn, was recently baptized and we’re reviewing the lessons with her. We taught the gospel of Jesus Christ using the recipe for panqueques (which are basically crepes), which was fun, spiritual, and delicious. 😀 (Fun note: “Queque” in Spanish means “cake,” like a coffee cake. A member recently pointed out that it literally translates as a “whatwhat” in English. XD)

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On Saturday afternoon President May called us with transfers: Hermana Cabezas will train a new missionary here in Arauco, and I’m headed back down south to Cunco, a tiny town near Temuco, where I started my mission. 😀 I’ve spent the past couple days saying goodbye to the members that I’ve come to love so much here. I’m really going to miss Arauco, but I do look forward to new challenges and miracles in Cunco. I know that transfers are inspired and that God needs me in Cunco now.

Last Sunday after church our investigator Alejandra told us, “I want to get baptized.” I honestly thought she was joking and about burst when I realized she was serious. 😄😄😄😄😄😄😄😄😄😄😄😄  She’s getting baptized this Friday. That’s been one of the biggest miracles from this transfer. 😀 I won’t be here when for her baptism because I’ve been transferred down south again, but I’m grateful to have been part of this part of her life. She’s a firecracker and will be a great addition to the branch. I asked her how she’s felt as she’s gone through all this, and she told me that she’s finally felt the presence of Christ in her life. She feels like she’s valuable and loved, and she’s felt real changes in her life. I have loved being able to share this beautiful gospel with her and her sister.

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On Wednesday Hermana May, the mission president’s wife, joined us for a few hours of the day. It was fun to spend more time with her; she is a wonderful lady, full of love for the mission and for others. She’s been a powerful influence on me in my mission, and I’m grateful for her love and concern for us missionaries.

In closing I want to share a thought from my personal study: In Doctrine and Covenants 123 Joseph Smith writes to the saints, “my dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie within our power…” I love that word “cheerfully.” The gospel is a joyful lifestyle, and service in whatever way is a joyful opportunity to share the love of God with our brothers and sisters. God has given us talents and gifts specific to us, and He’s placed where our gifts and talents may be of greatest use. I hope we may all seek to “cheerfully do all things that lie within our power” and to bring about the work of the Lord. If you feel like you don’t have any talents or gifts, ask God to show you, and He will help you see yourself more clearly.

I love you all, and I’m grateful for your love and prayers. I hope you have a wonderful week! Have fun, be safe, be happy.

With love,
Hermana Saunders

Week 65: in which Hermana Saunders gets a taste of home

Dear friends and family,
Another good week here in Chile. On Friday we had an absolutely FANTASTIC multi-zone conference in Concepcion. I came away with many much-needed answers and feeling very much spiritually uplifted. One of the things that really hit me was the presentation of the assistants to the president, Elders Sanchez and Garcia. They had us consider our hands and think about what they had done, and then they talked about the Savior’s hands. While here on earth we will never be exactly like the Savior, it was a powerful comparison and gave me something to consider. At the end of the day, what have my hands done? Have they served others? Did they shake every possible hand in the street? I hope that at the end of every day, I can say that my hands have done the very best they can to serve my Father in Heaven.

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We spent Thursday night in the mission home in Concepcion because it’s two hours away in bus. 😛 Hermana May, the president’s wife, gave us grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for dinner and then French toast for breakfast. I was a very, very happy hermana. I’ve eaten many yummy things here in Chile, but it was wonderful to have some of the food that I ate often at home. We also passed the temple on the way to the mission home, which was wonderful. It’s so exciting to see the progress on the temple, and it makes me even more excited to visit the Cedar City temple when I get home. 😀

 

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Monday was exciting because we went to Lebu (about an hour away) to register for my second visa. Wahoo! Thankfully it was a quick and easy visit, and Alejandra, who graciously agreed to drive us, showed us some cool historical parts of Lebu, like an old mine that was once one of the most productive mines in Chile but is now closed. It’s cool to see parts of the history of the people I’m serving.

And today we had a zone Halloween party, which was interesting. We weren’t able to find a pumpkin in time, so I carved a face into an apple. It turned out okay. 😀 We played games and presented our costumes; some went all-out, while others (like me…) went for the idea of a costume. It was great to spend some time with the zone, and everyone loved the brownie cookies I brought. 😀

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Bueno, that’s just a little bit of my week here in Chile. I hope things are going well for you guys, or if it’s not, that you’re relying on your Heavenly Father to guide you in difficult times. Remember that you are truly a child of God; nothing can change that–no sin, no mistake, no weakness. He loves you and watches over you always. I love you all!! Be safe, be kind, be grateful.

Love from Chile,
Hermana Saunders

Week 64: in which the wheels on the bus go round and round and round and round…

Dear friends and family,

We spent four out of seven mornings this week in Concepcion for medical appointments and check-ups for Hermana Cabezas. She’s fine now; we just have to be more careful about proselyting at night because the smoke from the wood stoves bother her asthma. The highlight of the trip was last Monday because our investigator Alejandra and her uncle Mario drove us up and back (they were headed to Conce anyway to drop off a few orders). On the way back we stopped at the temple site, which was a great feeling. I’m so excited for these people to have a temple so much closer!! The Concepcion temple should be finished within this next year, so I’ll miss the opening, but it’s still exciting to see the progress. 😀

On Friday we met Erika, an old investigator of the hermanas. Hermana Bazaes had taught her and gave us the reference. Through a series of unexpected events, we ended up at Erika’s house, where we shared a video about the power of prayer. The incredible thing was that the experience of the woman in the video was almost exactly that of Erika. We felt the Spirit strongly as she shared her recent challenges, and she told us that in our visit she received many answers and peace that she had desperately needed. We set up another for today, and I left very grateful for the opportunity to once again be a tool in the perfect hands or our loving Heavenly Father.

On Saturday we had a miracle that became a personal parable: We left a cita (an appointment) at 9:15 at night. We needed to get home quickly to plan, but we were on the other end of town, and buses and taxis don’t pass as often in the night. But just as we left the neighborhood, a taxi passed by. I flagged it down but then waved it on because we figured the fee would be much higher at this point on the weekend. But I looked through my bag and scrounged up what I had in coins. (My companion didn’t have money.) Just as I found that, another taxi passed by, and we flagged it down. I asked the driver how much he would charge, hoping against hope that I had enough. He looked at me for a moment and said he would take us both for $1000, which is exactly what I had and not nearly as much as I expected. We were able to get home to plan and get ready for bed on time without problems. As I thought about this experience, I realized that it’s just like the Atonement; we had gotten ourselves into an uncomfortable position and needed help. When this happens, Christ accepts whatever we can give, but–just like the unknowing taximan–He requires ALL we can give. This doesn’t mean that we pay for the consequences of what we did; that’s impossible. Rather, His grace allows all that we can give to be enough to receive forgiveness and mercy and makes change possible. I’m forever grateful for this incredible act of love, and every day I’m learning how to better give my all and to make real changes in my life.

That’s about all for this week! I’m excited for this next week because we have interviews with President and then a multi-zone conference. Wahoo! 😀 I love being a missionary, and it’s the best decision that I’ve made in my 20 short years. There is no better place for us than in the path of Christ’s gospel.

I love you all! Be safe, be kind, be grateful. And always remember who you are!!

Love,
Hermana Saunders