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. πŸ˜€ (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. πŸ˜€ 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.Β πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ˜„Β  She’s getting baptized this Friday. That’s been one of the biggest miracles from this transfer. πŸ˜€ 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

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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. πŸ˜› 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. πŸ˜€

 

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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. πŸ˜€ 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. πŸ˜€

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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. πŸ˜€

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! πŸ˜€ 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

Week 63: in which ataquamos la carpeta

Because it sounds cooler in Spanish. πŸ˜€

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”: theΒ fourthΒ 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. πŸ˜€ Hay milagros en la carpeta! πŸ˜€

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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 areΒ 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

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! πŸ˜› But it’s not too bad, and the work goes on. πŸ˜€

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! πŸ˜€ 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. πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

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. πŸ˜‰ 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 Γ€ngeles; 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. πŸ˜€ 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. πŸ˜€

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