Week 63: in which ataquamos la carpeta

Because it sounds cooler in Spanish. 😀

Dear friends and family,
The title of my e-mail reads, “in which we attack the area book.” The area book is where the missionaries record the names and progress of people they’ve taught or contacted. An “attack” is when a group of missionaries from different sectors descend on one sector to help the missionaries find people to teach. On Friday the sisters from the other zone (because we’re the only ones in ours 😦 ) came and helped us call people from the area book to set up appointments. It was fun to spend time working with them, especially since Hermana Bazaes, my trainer, is one of them! It was great to talk with her again and to meet another “sister”: the fourth trainee of Hermana B, Hermana Baer. We ended up with several appointments for this week. I look forward to the progress we’ll see with these people. 😀 Hay milagros en la carpeta! 😀

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A miracle from this week was the opportunity to be in the right place at the right time. We passed the house of a home-bound member, Hermana Clarisoni, on the way to visit a less-active member. She had just looked out the window, saw us, and gestured us inside. Instead of telling her that we were headed somewhere else, I followed the prompting to just spend time with her. We spent a while chatting with her about her life and experiences. She is really an incredible lady and one of the most faithful members I’ve ever met. She`s currently home-bound because of various illnesses, but she’s determined to go to church at least once in November. As we talked, we learned that she had had a particularly terrible day. I’m grateful that God sent us down that street so that we could be there to help that sweet sister. We can`t do much for her physically, but it does one a lot of good to talk with people who love you.

This week I read an article called “Motherhood in the Savior’s Way” from the Liahona, one of the church’s magazines. In it a tired mother of young children reflects about what it means to be a mother in the Savior’s way. She reflected on her tendency to complain or to compare the list of things she does for her kids with that of her kids when they complain. In her thoughts she realizes that Christ never did any of those things. He served without complaining out of pure, perfect love. He never expected praise nor sought it, and He never, ever compares how much He did for us when we complain to Him, although He’ll always remind us of the possibilities His atonement makes possible.

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And somehow, despite all of our imperfections and shortcomings, God still sees fit to send us miracles, even small ones, our way. Antonia is progressing, and she loves to learn. We made a reading calendar for her this week, which was something fun and different. Rayen, who got baptized last week, is excited to go to the temple, and her mom is rallying hard to really come back to church. We’re looking for new ways to animate the members to work with us. Today a sister called and said that her two older children, Araura (9) and Maxi (6) really want to make visits with us. They both recently shared a pass-along card with their respective teachers, and they love to talk with the missionaries. They are an example to all of us, and they are so cute!!

In other news, I’m learning to knit a scarf, I made a really cool decorative thing from wool (pics to come, I hope), and the weather can’t make up its mind about whether it wants to be winter or summer. The gospel is true; I know because I’ve asked and I’ve puts its principles to the test. It truly is God’s plan for us, and if we’ll trust Him enough to put our life in His perfect hands, He’ll make more of us than we can ever imagine. Take courage from the fact that He knows your potential, and He’ll help you accomplish it. As Elder Cook once said, “Yes, you can–and you will–make it.” God loves you, and I do too. Have a great week!

Love from Chile,
Hermana Saunders

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Week 62: in which resistance is futile

Dear friends and family,

I didn’t write yesterday [October 9] because it was a work holiday here in Chile, something about the Evangelist church. I’m not sure…Chile has all kinds of random holidays that pop up every once in a while.

It rained all week this week, with a brief respite on the weekend. It’s so true that rainy days help one appreciate even more the warmth and joy of sunshine. 😁  Even with rain boots, jackets, and umbrellas, we still got wet, which resulted in a fun cold this weekend. Yay! 😛 But it’s not too bad, and the work goes on. 😀

We spent Friday night and Saturday morning prepping the church, and then Rayen got baptized on Saturday night! It was a wonderful experience, and it’s been a privilege to work with her and her family. Her family came on Sunday as well, and in Gospel Principles class, her sister, Alejandra, talked about the tranquility that has come into their home as they’ve listened to the missionaries and put the principles into practice. Rayen has a great support system, and she’s very content with her decision. I felt God’s love for her in her baptism, and I know her family felt it as well. 😊

We’re working with another less-active family, Marcela and her daughter Antonia. Antonia is 11 and excited to learn more. Her mom is working to reactivate and really wants her daughter to have the same knowledge and blessings that she enjoyed when she was active. We taught Antonia about prophets on Saturday, and her aunt, who lives with her, shared her testimony about the blessing of having a prophet in these times. I look forward to helping the whole family find greater peace and happiness in the gospel.

Monday was a regular P-day, except that we didn’t write. Nancy, Rayen’s mom, invited us to eat lunch with the family, and then she taught us how to knit! 😀 It was a lot of fun, although I’ve already forgotten how to start a new row…but that’s why you ask. ;P Later that night we had a Family Home Evening with the Sister Faviola and her three little kids. They led everything: the lesson, the game, the prayers and songs. They were so cute!! It reminded me of FHE with my family when we were little. Then, later that same night, we had FHE with Rayen’s family. I taught them how to make brownies, and we shared a lesson about service and gratitude. I really love that family, and I’m grateful to be a part of this part of their lives.

I read this morning in Alma 32 and in Ether 12 in the Book of Mormon. They both talk about the nature of faith, and I wanted to share a couple insights from my studies. Alma invites us to allow “even a particle of faith” to lead us to act on something we’ve learned. And in whom should we place that particle of faith? In Jesus Christ and in His teachings, whether we hear those teachings from His own mouth or that of His prophets, “it is the same” (Amos 3:7). Alma promises that if we’ll do that, we’ll know for ourselves if that “seed” is good or bad, but we have to DO something first. Faith, as Ether says, means that we trust in something we can’t see yet but know to be true because Christ has taught us that. We can have faith that as we repent, we’ll receive forgiveness and the power to change. We can have faith that we’ll receive healing–physical or spiritual–and wisdom if we ask for it in sincere and humble prayer. Maybe we can’t see the difference just yet, but with faith we keep working, trusting that God will keep the promises He’s made.

I love you all. Each of you have touched my life for good, and I’m grateful for what you’ve taught me. May you always trust in your Heavenly Father, and may you always remember who you are.

Love,
Hermana Saunders

Week 61: in which we enjoy a spiritual buffet

Dear friends and family,

Conference this weekend was absolutely incredible. For those who don’t know, General Conference is a series of meetings that happen over the weekend twice a year; during Conference we listen to the counsel of inspired leaders of the church. On Saturday and Sunday we enjoyed a spiritual buffet of counsel and guidance, and I came away with answers and feelings of greater peace. I felt that one of the main themes was charity. I thought a lot about Moroni 7:43-47, and it made me reevaluate the way I speak, think, and act. If you missed a session of Conference or have never seen one, watch it! I can promise you’ll find answer to whatever question or doubt you have, and you’ll feel even more the love of your Heavenly Father.

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We’ve met with Rayen every day this week to help her prepare for her baptism this coming weekend. We’re all really excited, and her family is making progress and re-discovering the joys of the gospel. I love teaching that family: Rayen and her mom have a sincere desire to learn and to change, and they all notice a change in the house and in themselves. It’s the miracle of the gospel, I tell you. 😀 😀 😀

I love working with PFs (part-member families)! On Saturday morning the branch president told us about a less-active mom whose 11-year-old daughter, Antonia, wants to get baptized. We were able to meet with them that same night, and while they weren’t able to make it to Conference the next day, I know they’re happy to learn and to make progress. Antonia is shy, but my companion is a lot of fun and was able to make her smile and open up a little bit. I’m excited to help another family work towards eternal goals and to help them find once again the joy and peace of the gospel.

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My new companion is Hermana Cabezas from Ecuador. She’s tall, talks fast, and is full of all kinds of ideas for teaching in new ways. The house feels a lot bigger with just the two of us, but it also has it’s perks. 😉 We’ve combined the two sectors of Arauco, so now we’re also teaching the investigators of the other sisters. We’re basically two doing the work of four, but we’re doing the Lord’s work of four with His help, so even our imperfect efforts will be enough for Him to help this area grow.

My heart goes out to all who have been affected by the recent disasters. I hope that this time helps us all to draw closer to our Heavenly Father and to rely on Him. He hasn’t left any one of His children helpless, and I know that He hears and answers every one of the prayers of His beloved children. If you’re struggling, do the little things each day that He`s asked of us; reading the scriptures, praying, serving others, and so on. I promise you’ll find greater peace and strength through those little thins if you’ll do them consistently.

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I love you all! Be safe, be kind, and be faithful. Remember who you are!

Love from Chile,
Hermana Saunders

Week 60: in which we say a lot of goodbyes

Dear friends and family,

It’s amazing how you can know absolutely nothing about someone and then at the end of 3 weeks together 24/7, you’re good friends. Hermana Lopez and I were both very sad to say goodbye to Hermana Cuevas on Sunday; she ended her mission and is headed home. Tomorrow I’ll send Hermana Lopez off to Los Àngeles; President May called us on Friday night to tell her that–surprise!–she’ll be training a new missionary this transfer! So it’ll be just me and my companion-to-be, Hermana Cabezas, here in Arauco. I’m going to miss those two a lot; they’ve taught me a lot, and they helped me grow this transfer. I love them and am so grateful for the opportunity to serve with them.
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Wednesday night we met with our new ward mission leader, Hermano Temer, who is just an incredible human being. He’s excited to be WML, and he has a ton of energy for the missionary work. I’m excited to work with him. We also had a lesson with Rayen, who’s preparing to be baptized on Oct 7th. She’s really excited and is just so ready to learn. Her family is coming back to church little by little; her mom is really incredible and so funny and is absolutely determined to do things right again. We’ve met with the family several times this week, and repentance has been a special topic for all of them. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to help this family make changes and progress together towards eternal life. They really have a special place in my heart. 😊😊

On Friday no one was able to make it to English classes, so we helped the youth clean the chapel, which was fun. 😀 The leaders brought completos for everyone who helped, so we enjoyed those as well as got to know the youth a little better.

There’s this absolutely incredible exhibit in town that’s a tribute to Violeta Parra, an extremely influential folk singer from Chile. A group of women created tapestries of different styles that depicted different stages of the life of Violet. A couple of the women were there when we passed by and gave us a short over-view of who Violet was and her influence in both Chile and in Europe. Her life was powerful and tragic. I suggest you look her up; her music and embroidery are pretty cool. 😀

We spent a lot of Saturday and Sunday visiting people so that my companions could say goodbye. Surprisingly there were very few tears but lots of sadness. It’s hard to say goodbye to a place and people with whom you’ve fallen in love. Arauco will miss those two.

Miracles on Sunday! Alenjandra, the older sister of Rayen, came to stake conference with us! At first she said that she would only drive us there, but she stayed for the whole thing! And then later that night we were able to meet with three new people: the son of an investigator and two of his friends. It was cool to see how God can touch the hearts of people in more ways than one, and I love the opportunity I have to help them get to know their loving Heavenly Father better.

Know that I love you all! Let me know what were your favorite points from General Conference in this next week! Be sure to catch all four sessions!

Lots of love,
Hermana Saunders

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

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