Week 54: in which there was much rejoicing

Yaaayy…

Dearest friends and family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love
Hermana Saunders

Week 53: in which we fail as ninjas

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Dear family and friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love from Chile,
Hermana Saunders

Week 52: in which I have a week of miracles

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Dear family and friends,

It’s been another good week of challenges, learning, and growth. At a conference for trainers and trainees on Wednesday, Elder Sanchez from the office challenged me to write down seven miracles from this week and share them with you, so here they are:

1. As we contacted on Wednesday, we passed a house just as a woman was entering. I felt a subtle prompting to talk with her, so just as she closed the door, we called, “halo!” She let us in, and we talked with her and her mom. Her mom doesn’t live with her and didn’t accept another appointment, but she, Paola, is really great. We’re excited to teach this family. 😊
2. With half an hour left at the end of Thursday, we hadn’t found anyone nor had a lesson. Our back-up plans had fallen, as had our back-up back-up plans, so we prayed to know what to do. My companion thought of a lady who was in our list of investigators, but for the past three weeks, we haven’t had any idea who she was. We didn’t have a number, last name, or address, so we had basically given up trying to find her. This day, Hermana Scholl remembered that she had taught her during the first week of her training, and she was able to guide us to this lady, a very tired, faithful single mother of two. We had a great lesson with her and left grateful that God had shown us once again that He knows where His children are.
3. During weekly planning on Thursday, we called Carlos, an investigator we haven’t been able to see for a while. When I asked about his weekend, he said he’d gone to church while he was out of town! And he really enjoyed it! 😀
4. I had to fix some things with my Chilean ID card on Friday. It was a day when we were very short on proselyting time, so I worried that it would take forever in the PDI and the registro civil, but we finished everything in record time, and I even received help finding my wallet! (I haven’t found it yet, but now I know what I can do. :D)
5. Once again, we almost passed a house as we contacted on Saturday, but again I felt a very subtle impression to knock on the door. We found Karen and Horacio, siblings who are searching for the truth and are willing to do what it takes to find it. I felt the Spirit as we gave a brief introduction to the Restoration, and we left them with the commitment to read the first pamphlet.
6. On Sunday, two of our investigators came to church!! I was so happy to see them, in part because we haven`t been able to see them all week.
7. Also on Sunday, we had a lesson with Paola (from Wed), and her husband, Claudio, was there! He asked a lot of questions and shared that he also wanted to know how to know the truth for himself. I’m beginning to really like this couple, and they have a lot of great questions.

And a tender mercy: This week I’ve had cinnamon rolls, brigadero, and no-bake cookies in the two training meetings we’ve had this week. I haven’t had cinnamon rolls in more than a year, and they tasted SOO good. 😊😊  I love the desserts here, but not much can beat a really good, homemade cinnamon roll.

Hermana Scholl and I have had fun this week finding new ways to laugh and to contact. She still laughs at my bad jokes, so I guess she hasn’t gotten too tired of me yet. 😉 I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with her and for her example of patience.

I hope you all have a great week! Remember who you are!! And take the time to write down the little miracles in each day. I promise it will make your life a little bit happier as you realize God’s hand in your life.

Besitos y abrazos de Chile!

Hermana Saunders

Week 51: in which we go to the end of the world

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Dear family and friends,

Or maybe just the end of Arauco, but it was still cool. 😀 We went to the beach today. The weather was gorgeous and perfect for photos, which was a lot of fun. My batteries are dead, so hopefully I’ll be able to send the pics the hermanas took when they’re done writing. I love the opportunity to spend time in beautiful places and think that God created all of this for us. 😊

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On Thursday we tried something new: we set up a table in the plaza with pamphlets, cookies, and hot chocolate and invited people to take one of each. 😀 A few people did stop and talk to us, and we were able to take down a few names and numbers to pass by later.  😀

On Friday we went to Concepciòn for a conference with two other zones. It was great because I got to see Hermana Clark, my CCM companion, and Hermana Bazaes, my first companion in the field. 😀 Hermana Clark is training as well, and Hermana Bazaes is a training hermana…it’s crazy how time flies. Also, turns out the senior couple in the office knew Grandpa Saunders from USU! Small world. Elder Willey and Elder Sandoval (elders from the office) talked about setting realistic and helpful goals, and their presentation was honestly an answer to my prayers. I’m trying to be better about making a plan to reach my goal; I often miss the planning part of the process, which is like trying to get to the other side of the canyon without building the bridge. 😛

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On Saturday I had the opportunity to return, in a way, to my training and to remember all of the feelings I had at the beginning of my mission. We did a “mini-mission” with members of the Camilo branch (which is an hour and a half bus ride from Arauco). My comp for the day was Pricilla, who is my age and a convert of 7 years. She was so excited for this opportunity to spend the day as a missionary. She doesn’t know yet if she’ll serve a mission, but I know that if she does, she’ll be fantastic. We had fun and saw miracles when the SECOND door we knocked opened, and we found a couple who want to know more. It was a wonderful experience and helped me realize even more the power of a member’s testimony in the lesson. And not even the rain could dampen our spirits. 😀

During our district meeting on Tuesday, I had a bit of personal revelation that I wanted to share: We were talking about our weaknesses, and I was thinking about how frustrating mine were sometimes. A thought came to my mind: our weaknesses do not make us unworthy of God’s help; He’s given them to us so that we’ll draw closer to Him. Sometimes it’s hard to look back on a day or a week and think, “Dang it! I messed up again and again. How can I keep asking God to help me with the same problem if I never (as far as we can see) improve?” But I think that, in some ways, that’s the point. We realize that God is the only one who can help us completely overcome our weaknesses. If we were great at everything, we’d never need to rely on God! I don’t know if that means I’ll always be spacey or bad at time-management, but I know that it does mean that I can always rely on my Father to help me and to forgive me when I mess up.

That’s all for this week! I hope you all a great week! Remember who you are!

Love from Chile,
Hermana Saunders

Week 50: in which we return to Primary part 2

Dearest family and friends,

We’ve enjoyed a few beautiful sunny days this week in Arauco, and it’s been wonderful. It’s still freezing every day, but the sun brings a kind of hope and light (haha) to Arauco. Everything looks different and happier, and people are more willing to talk to us in the street. It’s beautiful. 😀

I am so grateful for inspired leaders. On Wednesday Elder Ramos, my district leader, gave a class about the difference between sadness and discouragement in the mission, and it was just what I needed. I wanted to share some of the thoughts that I got out of it: Discouragement looks inward–“They’ll never progress because I can’t teach well enough for them to understand.” “Nobody’s let us in, it’s raining, and I’m cold. We’ll never find anyone.” Sadness looks outward–“I know that if they would fulfill their commitments, they could receive their answer.” “They’re missing so many blessings.” Discouragement impedes progress because it thinks “What’s the point?”, but sadness recognizes that even if it can’t see the results right now, hard work and faith can only bring blessings. Discouragement blames the circumstances for failure, but sadness seeks for other ways to help others and itself progress. Discouragement comes because of its own failings, but sadness comes because it feels pain for others. As I thought about this, I made the determination to be sad because someone is not progressing instead of being discouraged and thinking that things will never improve. Discouragement is a tool of Satan because he knows that if we’re discouraged, we’ll stop working and can’t progress. But God provides encouragement in every situation, through scriptures, prophets, prayer, and other people. I loved the quote in this weeks Cosecha, and I’ll seek to apply it in every day.

On Wednesday we also had a cool miracle. During daily planning I wrote down a few less-active families as back-up plans for the next day. However, as we left the house, I felt prompted to visit them that same day. It didn’t make sense to me because I figured that we needed to look for news this week, not spend more time with the members. But the thought wouldn’t leave, so we headed for where I thought was the street. It wasn’t there, and, even with the map, it took us a little more than an hour of contacting and asking for directions before we found it. I almost gave up and decided to move on, but I felt the need to find those families. When we finally found the street and contacted the third family, we discovered that the children aren’t baptized and that one of the daughters–along with her boyfriend–want to be baptized! It’ll be a process because the dad has a bad view of the church, but I know that with a lot of prayer and faith, they can progress and find the joy of the gospel. I’m so grateful for another day in which God showed me that He knows where His children are and what they need. I pray every day that He’ll continue to mold me to be a tool in His expert hands.

Time feels even shorter today, so that’s all for this week. Know that I love you all and that your Heavenly Father is watching over you. He knows your potential and your efforts, and He’s always there to help you if you’ll let him. Take the time to look for the miracles in every day; I promise you they’re there.

Be safe, be kind, be smart. And remember who you are!!

Love,
Hermana Saunders

Week 49: in which I become a papà!! :D

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Dear friends and family,

I’m a papà! In mission lingo, the first trainer you have is your “mom,” and the second trainer is your “dad.” The trainer(s) of your trainer(s) are your grandparents, and if your trainer trained other missionaries, they’re your “siblings.” Since I’m the second trainer of Hermana Scholl, I’m her “papà,” complete with dad jokes. 😀 It’s fun. 😀

On Tuesday I traveled from Los Àngeles to Concepciòn to meet my new companion, Hermana Scholl, and to receive training for new trainers. Training is a new experience, one of much growth. 😛 But we’ll have fun. 😀 I love Hermana Scholl; although she has 7 weeks in the mission field, she teaches with sincerity and love in the little Spanish that she knows. And she’s an example to me; she really wants to improve a lot in Spanish, so we’ve been talking in Spanish almost 24/7. 😀 I’m surprised by the fact that it’s less of a challenge that I thought, and it’s gratifying to realize that I’ve really improved a lot in my Spanish!

And now I’m here in Arauco, about 15 minutes from the ocean! This is my first time in a little city, and it’s a… different experience. We have a branch here, which means that about 30 people attend church on Sunday. 😛 We also work in several other surrounding towns that are even smaller, so we spend some time traveling. Downtown shuts down around 7:30 at night, and very few people open the door after the sun goes down around 6:30. And it rains. A lot. I’m very grateful for warm clothes and rain gear. (Froggtogg for the win!) We live with another companionship, Hermana Lopez and Hermana Vasquez, in a house we’re renting from a member. (Tip for anyone headed for mid-or southern Chile: bring a sleeping bag because it is often freezing at night, even with a heater. :P) It’s a safe and comfortable house, and I love the sisters we live with. 😊

On Wednesday we had district meeting. It was nice to see some familiar faces; Elder Contreras was my DL in Los Àngeles; Elder Ramos, our current DL, was also in Temuco; and Elders Smith and Howes have been in other zones with me. AND I found another Sky View buddy! Elder Duffin was in the same grade at Sky View in Logan; we never met, but it’s cool. Que chico el mundo….

I still have so much to learn about being a missionary, and I’m grateful for this opportunity to train because I know I’ll learn a lot. I’m grateful that even though I’m so imperfect, God is infinitely patient and can use me in His perfect work. I love being a missionary!

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

Love,
Hermana Saunders