Week 48: in which change is in the air

Dear friends and family,

Well, looks like I’m headed out this transfer. We got the call on Saturday night that I’m headed to Arauco (my companion’s old area!) to finish the training of new missionary, and Hermana Custodio is staying here to train a greenie! 馃榾 (A greenie is a new missionary.) 聽I’m sad that the time has come to say good-bye to Villa Obispo and to Hermana Custodio. I really fell in love with the mission, the members, and the investigators here, and I feel that I have worked harder here than I have at any other time in the mission. It’s so true that service is one way that true love really grows. I’m so grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to be here. I’m also a little nervous about training. I’m grateful for the demonstration of God’s confidence in me, and I’m trying to live up to that. I also know there are things one can learn only through training. I look forward to the opportunity to share with a new missionary all that I’ve learned in these 11(!!!!!!) months and to see what God needs to teach me (probably a little more patience, hope, and charity). I know that if I allow Him to, He can make more of me than I could ever do alone.

Anita Burgos y Felix Rios

On Sunday Chile played in the semi-finals of some championship, which meant that聽nobody聽was in the street in the afternoon. Chile becomes a ghost town when there’s a big game on, so it’s nice to be able to plan and study during that time. 馃槢

Eugenia Sepulveda y Barbara Salamanca

Lesli wasn’t able to go to church this week because of a family trip, but she’s still excited for her baptism (now on the 15). Paola is working to overcome her fear of marriage and meet the goal of her baptism on the 22; she knows that this message is true, and she says she’ll do whatever is necessary to be baptized this month. She is really an incredible woman; I have an enormous respect for her as a mother, woman, and friend. I’m sad that I’ll be so far away for these baptisms and marriage, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to be at least a part of their conversion and to love them.

Scarlet Alarcon, Gustavo, Florencia3

It’s a short one today because time is also short, but know that I love you all. I know that God has restored His true church on the earth because He loves us and wants His children to have clarity and truth. I know that through the Atonement of Christ, we may really become clean and be healed from all affliction, sin, and grief. A member asked me yesterday how I came to know Christ; as I’ve taught, prayed, fasted, served, cried, and repented in these 11 months, Christ has become more real to me than ever. He is my Savior, my Brother, my Friend. I feel His love so much stronger, and as I’ve sought the healing and enabling power of His Atonement, I’ve felt His peace and grown to become a much better person, teacher, and missionary. I urge you all to study His words and His Atonement and to apply it daily in your lives.

Sofia, x, Hna Ingrid Zuloaga, Andres

隆Besitos y abrazos a todos! May you always remember who you are. 馃榾

Love,
Hermana Saunders

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Week 47: in which we spend a lot of time singin’ in the rain

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Dear friends and family,

I love the opportunity to see the miracles, big and little, in every day. On Sunday Hermana Cust贸dio had our own聽“fourth floor, last door”聽experience. Every single one of our citas fell through–including our back-up plans–so we spent a lot of time contacting. At 8:00 that night, we had a few futures but nobody wanted to let us in. We prayed for guidance because we really didn’t know what to do. We felt peace when we asked if we should contact a certain street on the other side of our sector. We began contacting, and after about 45 minutes, not a single person let us in and few people showed interest. Honestly, I was feeling a little discouraged. But my wonderful, positive, hard-working companion said with determination, “We are not going into the house until we find someone to teach!” At this point we had only a few houses left on the street (and it was a long street!). We contacted the last three houses, and at the very last house, a lady opened the door and warmly welcomed us in. We were so excited! And she’s really great. The miracle is that she had just moved in yesterday! This experience strengthened my testimony that God is aware of all of His children, no matter where they are, [and] He can send them the help they need when they need it. We ended that night a little foot-sore but very happy and grateful for this miracle.

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Other miracles from this week:

  • Lesli is 100% committed to her baptismal date for July 8!! (I’m just praying that I’m at the very least in Los 脕ngeles for that.)
  • Another investigator, Paola, accepted a baptismal date聽after much time of being scared to make a decision. She has a little bit more preparation time, but she said that she麓s willing to do anything to prepare herself for that date.
  • On Monday, thanks to a loving member family, we found an inactive family who wants to come back to church, and the two daughters who aren’t baptized are excited to work towards that goal. The mom and the two daughters came to church on Sunday for the first time in about 3 years. It’s been an incredible experience to see so many families coming back to the gospel after so many years on a different, much more difficult path. It’s a testimony to me of God’s love for His children and the power of the Atonement. How great is God’s joy over every sinner who repents.
  • On Wednesday we helped a sister clean her yard and then traveled to Yumbel (a tiny town close-by) to help the elders there find new people to teach. It was raining–of course–and few people opened their doors, but Hermana Cust贸dio and I had fun singing and finding new ways to contact people. I love working with her; she’s so positive, hardworking, and gets my sarcasm. 馃榾 We also laughed hard when the elders, who had placed their socks to dry on the gas-powered heater during the following meeting in Yumbel, realized that their socks were burning. XD (No other harm was done.) Fun times in the rainy weather. 馃榾

fam pauviff cipitiria2

I want to end with a quote that I loved from my studies this week: “The real marvel of the journey is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” We are surrounded by so many miracles in every day, but sometimes we become so accustomed to them that we don’t see them. This week, I invite you all to “see with new eyes” and find the miracles, big and little, in every day. Rediscover the beauty of a sunset. Marvel at the growth of your children. Relish the company of the Spirit as you read the scriptures and pray. And never forget from Whom theses things come.

I love you all!! Be safe, be smart, be kind. Make it a great day or not, the choice is yours.

Besitos!!
Love,
Hermana Saunders

Week 46: [in which there is no subject line]

Dear family and friends,

I don’t know why, but Sunday miracles seem to be the sweetest kind. This Sunday in church was really incredible. In sacrament meeting, Felix, who’s been inactive for about 20 years, gave one of the most heart-felt talks I’ve ever heard. It was an incredible feeling to see him at the pulpit sharing his testimony and then to see him seated next to his daughter in the pew. Also, David, who’s been inactive for 30 years–most of his life–came to church with his girlfriend, whom we are teaching, and their two beautiful daughters. His mom, who’s in our ward, almost cried with joy. Words can’t describe the joy I also felt, and I’m sure it’s just a small taste of the joy that God feels to see His children finding their way back to the path. It’s such a wonderful opportunity to be part of this beautiful work.

In our district meeting we talked about what it means to be a 聽successful missionary and how success is not luck but the blessing that comes as a result of hard work, love, dedication, and obedience. This week I’ve thought a lot about what it means to “give my whole heart to the Lord.” There are some times when I let my mind wander a little and become unfocused in lessons or in the street, and this week I’ve tried really hard to be more focused and more aware of what thoughts I allow in my mind. I’ve noticed a difference in how I feel at the end of the day; I’m more positive and excited for the work, and I feel more sensitive to the guidance of the Spirit.

On Tuesday I had an incredible experience in a lesson with a very tired mother, Andrea, and her son, Lorenzo. Andrea often says that, as much she wants to, she doesn’t have a lot of time to dedicate to “changing her religion.” Her children have expressed a desire to be baptized, and Lorenzo started saying his prayers often after our very first visit. He even puts soccer off to listen to us! But as I listened to Andrea talk about how overwhelmed she felt, I wondered what we could do to help her. What came to mind was the object lesson about time management that includes fitting rocks and sand into a bottle. (If you’re not familiar with that I encourage you look it up.) I didn’t have either of those, but the Spirit led my eyes to the differently-sized blocks that littered the living room where we were seated. I asked if she had a pot that I could use, and while she and my companion talked, I figured out how many big and little blocks we needed to fill the pot. We used the object lesson to talk about priorities and the putting the things of God first–in other words, making time to study the scriptures, go to church, pray, and spend time in family and putting the other small, fun things in second place. The Spirit testified of the promise of the scriptures that when we “seek…first the kingdom of God,” all other things shall be given. Andrea was greatly comforted by the scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 58, which says, “Who am I, saith the Lord, that have promised and have not fulfilled?” They committed themselves to read and pray as a family, and we left the house with a wonderful feeling of peace. It was so cool to feel so clearly guided by the Spirit to help one of God’s children. I love being a missionary!

Thursday: We had another wonderful multi-zone conference with the other nearby zones. (For those who don’t know, a district is a group of companionships, and a zone is a group of generally two or three districts.) Afterwards we had a women’s conference with Hermana May and talked about the importance that every single one of us has in the work of the Lord. It also rained all evening, but thanks to my FrogTogg rain jacket and my rain skirt, I stayed nice and dry. I looked like a giant pink marshmallow, but I was dry! (If you are called to serve in a rainy area, buy a rain skirt!! Unless you’re an elder. It is definitely one of the best inventions I’ve ever seen.)

Sometimes I wish I could just strap a camera to my head and videotape the mission life because I cannot fit it into one e-mail in less than half an hour. But it sufficeth me to say that we had a great week, we had wonderful miracles, and despite the cold we continue happy and warm. (It’s interesting being with a Brazilian because this is something very new for her. XD) I love being a missionary, and I love serving the people of Chile.

I hope this e-mail finds you all in good health and busy with lots of good things to do this summer. I encourage you to look for the miracles in every day and find joy in the little things. Always remember who you are and whose聽you are. Remember, God made you special, and He loves you very much!

Until next week,
Hermana Saunders

Week 45: in which we have HAIL

Dear family and friends,

I do not and don’t think I ever can understand Chile’s weather. The other day was partly cloudy and windy when all of a sudden we had a random shower of HAIL. It was small hail, but still. 馃槢

We had planned on having a baptism scheduled for the end of this coming week, but whether the Lord has other plans or just allowed His child to use her agency, I don’t know. Lesli didn’t go to church yesterday, so her fecha fell. She says that she still wants to get baptized, but she doesn’t feel ready. We’re working to help her better recognize how the Spirit speaks to her, and the experience has helped realize even more that the gospel is a foreign language to some.

As we move into the second half of the cambio, I’m working hard to not be sad that I probably won’t be here when my investigators get baptized. One family in specific makes me sad because they are just so good. The other night we passed by to see how they were and to ask for the bathroom. Lorenzo, who’s 9, was on his way out to play soccer, but he said, “But now that you’re here I’ll stay for a few minutes more.” He’s always excited to see us, and he’s really good at keeping his commitments. One of the hardest parts of the mission is falling in love with the people but being with them for such a short time.

Miracles!! We were finally able to have a cita with an investigator who’s been hard to catch because of work, and he accepted a baptismal date!! Rafael really wants to improve his relationship with God and become a better person. When we first started teaching him, he was super hesitant to accept a baptismal date and didn’t want to pray in front of people, but this past week he did both!! It’s cool to see his genuine desire to change and become better. Anther cool miracle is that more and more less-active families are coming to church, and some of them I honestly thought would never again step foot in the church.

Hermana Cust贸dio and I have done a lot of introspection this past week and have talked a lot about how we can improve our teaching so that our investigators progress, and it’s been great to see how the revelation has come from truly seeking the guidance of our Heavenly Father. He knows His children and He knows what they need. We’re excited for this week to put into practice the changes and ideas we want to make. I’m also so thankful for a companion that really strives to be better every day and works hard. Hermana Cust贸dio and I have lot of fun together. 馃榾

Fun thing about this ward: they love the missionaries. 馃榾 Hermana Liz from our ward knit really cool, warm scarves for me and my companion. It’s wonderful to feel the love of the ward members and to be able to serve them. As I’ve served them, I’ve been able to feel even more the love that God has for them, His children.

That’s all for this week! I hope this e-mail finds you all warm and toasty.聽馃槤 聽Know that God loves you and wants to hear from you. Don’t forget to pray, and remember who you are!

Lots of love,
Hermana Saunders

Week 44: in which baby, it’s REALLY cold outside!!

Dearest family and friends,

For the sake of time, I’m going to copy an idea of a friend of mine and use bullets points from this week:

  • Completos on Monday for our first P-day together. They were a bit pricy but so very yummy. 馃榾
  • It’s getting REALLY cold outside–it’s in the 20s almost every day. Thank goodness for shirts and tights with polar fleece!
  • On Thursday we actually had all of the lessons we planned! That’s a miracle because that rarely happens. 馃榾 And it was also an exciting day because an entire family (minus the dad) accepted baptismal dates!! The dates fall because they didn’t make it to church this week, but they still want to be baptized. It’s been really great to see how the light in their faces has changed, especially when they learned about the plan of salvation. It was a beautiful lesson.
  • One of our investigators is going through a really rough time right now, and she told us that she’s found peace and strength as she’s read the Book of Mormon and prayed. It’s really great because she has started saying “When聽I get baptized” instead of “If聽I get baptized.”
  • Hermana Cust贸dio has been teaching me Portuguese, which has been a lot of fun. I can now count to 100 and tell you about an apple. 馃槈 I’m hoping to end this cambio speaking Spanish, English, French, AND Portuguese. 馃榾
  • I’ve lost both of my name tags, which is why in some of the pictures I’m “Hermana Cunha”… There’s a mission myth that says that every time your name tag falls, your future spouse gains weight. I don’t even want to know what happens if you lose two name tags…
  • This morning we went to Salto de Laja, a beautiful waterfall that’s close-ish to Los Angeles. It was really cool because we went early, so NOBODY was there. 馃榾 As we paused for a moment, watching the falls, I contemplated what a marvel it is that God created all of this for our enjoyment and benefit. What a wonderful Father. We also played Ninja there, which was fun.
  • Life is full of little miracles if you’ll only train your eyes to see them. God is truly present in every facet of our lives, and He loves us more than we can know. It’s a real blessing to help others come to this knowledge and to see the difference it makes in their lives.

I love you all!! Have a wonderful week!!

Love,
Hermana Saunders

Week 43: in which my sister comes to town

Dear family and friends,

I’m working with my sister now! Hermana Cust贸dio was trained by my trainer, Hermana Bazaes, which makes us “sisters” in the mission. I love working with her: we’re a lot alike, and she’s a really hard worker and just so incredibly patient and wise. She has half as much time as I do in the mission, but you wouldn’t know it. She says she’s really timid, but she talks to everybody! 馃榾 We’re going to have a fun cambio.

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This week has been one of lots of little miracles, like finding the back of my nametag right after it fell and the fact a member gave us milk instead of juice at lunch 馃榾 (earlier Hermana Lange and I had told her that in the our families, we were accustomed to having milk or water instead of juice or pop at the table. Here it’s ALWAYS juice or pop). Another miracle is the confidence I feel as I lead the sector. I’m learning that when I’m waiting for something big to happen (cambios, leaving on the mission, a test), the waiting is always worse than the actual thing. Especially in the mission, after the change comes, you just keep working, and God keeps helping you. I know I’m not leading perfectly–nobody is a perfect missionary–but I know that I’m living worthily of the Spirit, and I’m learning to confide in him more. I once made the comment that some of the greatest miracles we see in the mission is our own progress, and I still feel that way, especially as I work here in Villa Obispo.

Hermana Cust贸dio and I have decided that our motto for this cambio is “隆A la batalla con la fuerza del Se帽or!”聽(To the battle with the strength of the Lord!) I love the examples in the scriptures of the prophets and youth who trust in the Lord rather than in their own strength. We may be imperfect people, but with the strength of the Lord, we can do–and are doing–incredible things.

This week was really cool because we found two more “news” who are good friends with youth in our ward! We had a short lesson with Javiera, her boyfriend Jos茅 Manuel, and her cousin Martin on Friday. When we asked why Javiera agreed to meet with us, she said “I like being around Mormons.” She and Jos茅 have been at several Family Home Evenings with a family in our ward, but this is the first time they’ve had an actual lesson with the missionaries. I’m so excited to teach them!! They’re so honest and open, and I love their questions. It was also fun to show them my pictures from home; they loved the mountains. 馃榾

None of our investigators came to church on Sunday, but we did have a wonderful miracle: an inactive family came to church for the first time in years!! The dad has been going for a couple months now, but yesterday they all came together. On Saturday we had a lesson with them, and we talked about the Atonement. I shared Alma 7:11-13 and asked what they would be willing to do this week to show Christ that they love him and accept His sacrifice. They all talked about being better with prayer and scripture study, and then I said, “We’d like to make a goal for when we can see the whole family together at church.” They all looked at each other, and to our great surprise, the mom responded, “Let’s go tomorrow.” The first time we met this family, she told us she had absolutely no intention of going back to church. But yesterday she and her daughter thanked us for all we’ve done for her family. It’s a beautiful experience to be part of the changes that the gospel makes in the lives of these people.

I’m out of time, so that’s all for this week! I love you all! I leave you with the same invitation I made that family: As you think about what Christ has done for you, consider one thing you’ll do this week to show Him that you truly love Him and accept His sacrifice. I promise you that you’ll find a wonderful difference in your life as you apply this. I know I have.

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

Love,
Hermana Saunders

Week 42: in which we lose some and win some

Dear friends and family,
Whew! What a week! I don’t know that a “slow week” exists in the mission.

my first persimion

This week we dropped an investigator who told us that truth doesn’t exist and that we were basically a cult. But his sister wants to listen, so that was exciting! 馃榾

SANY0088

On Monday we had a lesson with Lesli, one of our investigators who is friends with a young woman from our ward. We talked about the Book of Mormon and how it was written for us. We read 1 Nephi 2:16 with her, substituting “Lesli” for “Nefi,” and she really felt like the verse was talking about her. She was able to identify with Nephi, who was also searching to know the truth of all things, and the Spirit was able to testify to her that just like God answered Nephi, He will answer her. I love the Book of Mormon! And I’ve seen the difference in the lessons when we share at least one verse from it in every lesson. There is real power in the book. If you haven’t read it yet, READ IT! And don’t just read the words; put your name in place of the names in the chapters, underline parts that call your attention, think about how it applies to your life. I promise that as you do so, you will find a greater relationship to your Heavenly Father as well as other treasures that money cannot buy.

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On Tuesday I taught the lesson in district meeting, which was fun. I enjoy teaching because as I prepare the lesson, I learn so much more than I do just listening to it. While we were knocking on Tuesday, a man poked his head out and yelled, “I’ve seen you before!” I was rather taken aback as I had never seen this man before in my life. He continued, “You were in hell! Ciao.” Just before he popped back inside, Hermana Lange laughingly responded, “You were there?” It made our day. XD

SANY0120

On Friday Hermana Lange had her last interview with President before the hermanas’ service activity that morning. That night we had a FANTASTIC lesson about the restoration with the girlfriend of an inactive member. It was the first time that I have almost cried recounting Joseph Smith’s experience, and I felt so strongly the truth of that experience. What a wonderful thing to know that the Heavens are still open and that God still reveals His truths to His children. It was also cool because the member who went with us, Hermana Carmen Julia, is an incredible teacher and very loving. She bore a powerful testimony and offered to help the investigator, whose kids are sick. It was a great experience. 馃檪

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On Saturday we had another open house in another ward’s chapel, which was a lot of fun. I love open houses because it’s an opportunity to bear testimony about truths that are so dear to me.

SANY0091

Sunday was an emotional day. It was Hermana Lange’s last day in Villa Obispo. After church we dropped by a couple houses of members so that Hermana Lange could say goodbye before President came to pick her up. She left for Concepci贸n that afternoon, and now I’m in a trio until my new companion comes on Tuesday. I was sad to see Hermana Lange go; she’s an incredible missionary and a great companion and friend. I’ll miss her here, and I know that so will many other members and investigators here in Chile.

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I wish I could talk about EVERYTHING that happened this week, but time does not allow, so that’s all for this week! Know that I love you all very much, and I hope that all is well! Remember who you are and WHOSE you are!

SANY0135

Love from Chile,
Hermana Saunders