Week 24: in which the Hermanas say “No mas pan!”

Dearest friends and family,

It is impossible to avoid eating something that is served with every. single. meal. as a missionary. Both Hermana Chavez and I tried really hard this week to avoid the delicious white bread that is sold on every corner and eaten with every lunch. It just doesn’t work in Chile… But I’d really like to do something about the 20 pounds of “blessings” I’ve gained in the past 4 months… πŸ˜›

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Transfers!! Tomorrow I’ll move to Los Angeles. Whoo, packing… My new comp will be Hermana Nielson, who finished training Hermana Chavez! I’m a little nervous, but I know that transfers are inspired, and I look forward to getting to know a little more of the mission. The downside is that Los Angeles is HOT. I’m going to melt just a little bit…

We did a lot of contacting again this week, which meant a lot of time in the streets. The weather here is so weird. Honestly, if you don’t like the weather, just wait an hour. πŸ˜› It’s almost always chilly in the mornings, but it could be anything in the afternoon. Anyway, the lessons we did have were pretty great. We met with Ricardo, whom we started teaching when I was with Hermana Bazaes. We’re reading the Book of Mormon with him, and it’s really cool to see his understanding expanding as he looks for answers to his own questions. The last time we read, Hermana Chavez made a comment about a verse, and he said, “Yeah, I really like that one too! I even marked it.” It was something really small, but it’s so cool to see how he’s beginning to “liken the scriptures” to himself and make positive changes in his life.

This e-mail is super short, but know that I love you all so very much. Trust in the Lord and have patience with His timing. He really does know when and how things need to happen, and He “loves to bless and teach you.” Remember who you are! Be safe, be smart, be kind.

Lots of love,
Hermana Saunders

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Week 23: in which Hermana Saunders goes treasure hunting

Dear family and friends,

My favorite miracle of this week was Saturday morning. We left with the intention to visit a member who usually needs help. On the way, we stopped to talk to a lady who was waiting for a bus. As we talked, we discovered that she’s an inactive member! She gave us her address, and we’re planning to visit her sometime this week. As we continued on our way, we stopped to help an elderly lady with her bags. It also started to rain, and she didn’t have an umbrella, so Hermana Chavez offered hers. As we walked with her to her house, we discovered that her sister-in-law is a member in our ward! She invited us in when we got to her house and offered us soda and cookies. We asked if we could share a little of our message with her, and after the prayer, I asked her what she’d like to ask Jesus Christ in an interview. I had started to pull out the Restoration pamphlet when she said, “I’d ask if the people who die live again.” Hermana Chavez and I looked at each other as I hastily stowed the first pamphlet and pulled out the Plan of Salvation [pamphlet]. She also asked why there are so many churches, and we where like, “Well, we have that answer too!” we had a pretty good lesson with her and set a return appointment. She told us that she is “Catholic forever,” but I really believe that she’ll find something she needs in our lessons. We’ll see what happens.

In our zone we’ve focused on finding families to teach. We’re looking especially for “golden families,” a family that consists of a mom, dad, and kids who are willing to listen and progress. Hermana Chavez and I did a lot (A LOT) of contacting this week without a lot of success, but we still have a a goal to find this family that is waiting for us in Temuco.

This week I’ve learned a lot about the Atonement of Christ, and it’s become so much more personal to me. In our zone conference on Friday, the training hermanas shared a parable of a father’s sacrifice for the salvation of the world. The story was that a disease covered the entire world, and millions were dying every day. After months, the doctors discovered a cure, but it required the blood of a person who was completely clean of the disease. When the doctors found a cure, the first and only match was the only son of this father–and it required the son’s life. As the hermanas described the feelings of this father and the reaction of the world, I thought in the Savior, how He willing obeyed His Father so that we, His brothers and sisters, could be saved. How our Father loves us so completely and perfectly that He created this perfect Plan. How I can turn to Him in moments of pain and grief and receive comfort. While I still really struggle with insecurities and frustration, this week I’ve sought to trust more in the Savior’s atonement and in His saving grace. Also, as I’ve met various people here in Temuco, I’ve come to know and understand more suffering than I ever realized before my mission. And like the hymn says, I stand all amazed at the love of Christ, at the depth and power of His atonement. “There is no pain or sin too great. All may be healed at the Master’s gate.”

I leave you with my testimony that God loves you. He wants you to come home to Him, and He is always on your side when you strive to follow Him. He sent His Son so that YOU might be saved, and the Atonement is for YOU. Christ knows exactly how you feel, and He’s waiting with the peace and comfort you need. “Come unto Him,” and be healed.

I love you all! Remember who you are!

Love,
Hermana Saunders

Week 22: in which Hermana Saunders [apparently forgot a subject line]

January 2, 2017:

Hola! Happy New Year!!! I’ll write tomorrow; it’s a work holiday today, so the cyber cafes were all closed this morning, which means that we don’t have time today to write. But I’m alive and healthy and enjoyed a great New Year’s.

I love you all!

Hermana Saunders

 

January 3, 2017:

Dear family and friends,

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Wow. I’m really excited for this year. I have a lot of goals, and I’ve thought a lot about what I want to have accomplished and who I want to be at the end of this year (which will also be almost the end of my mission! Yikes!) I have a strong testimony that God cares very much about our goals and that He wants to help us. I love Ether 12:27 in the Book of Mormon, where it talks about how God can help us grow from our weaknesses. I’m sure every return missionary can tell you that the mission is one of the best places to learn about your weaknesses; sometimes it’s hard to feel like I could be or do enough. But the grace of God is real. While we can never “pay” God back for what we owe, through the gift of His Son’s atonement, we don’t have to. He accepts our broken hearts and contrite spirits and every imperfect effort we make to improve and live according to His commandments.

New Year’s Eve was a partial P-Day; we had to be in the apartment by 7. So the four of us in our house ordered pizza, moved our beds into the living room, and had a “sleepover.” It was so much fun, even more so when we watched the incredible fireworks in the stadium across the street. πŸ˜€ (Wish I had pictures for this week, but the computer is being difficult. Maybe later. :P)

This week four of our investigators accepted baptismal dates! The really cool thing is that of the four, three are references, and we’re teaching two families. While this week was hard and not super busy, looking back I can see that God helped us be in the right places at the right time.

I’m also learning that the really the only way to conquer a fear is by facing it. Talking to people in the street terrifies me, and I feel super awkward. (Pues, I am awkward.) But this transfer I determined that I was going to do it! I was going to talk with everyone! So every day I’ve set goals for how many people I will talk to in the street. I started small, with 4 people, and today I talked to 8! It still scares me, and I still feel awkward, but less so now, and I have the support and help of my companion, Hermana Chavez. While we have our differences, she has been a great support this transfer as I’ve set and worked towards goals. I am truly grateful for her.

I want to leave you with a thought from William Shakespeare (which is not scripture but is still pretty dang good):

What win I, if I gain the thing I seek?
A dream, a breath, a froth of floating joy.
Who buys a minute’s mirth to wail a week,
or sells eternity to get a toy?

[This is a quote from Shakespeare’s narrative poem,Β The Rape of Lucrece. – AnnMarie]

This year, think about what matters most. And remember, if you’ve “sold eternity to get a toy,” the Atonement of Jesus Christ is there to let you exchange it, but you have to accept it first.

I love you all! Stay safe and happy, and have a great year!

Until next week!
Love,
Hermana Saunders

Week 21: in which Hermana Saunders has a grey Christmas

Dearest friends and family,

Well, we didn’t get snow on Christmas, but we did get rain! Close enough, right? πŸ˜‰

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This week was not really exciting; a lot of our appointments fell, but we did find some nuevos!! We encountered Ketsali on Thursday. She was a reference from a member in a different ward. When we told her about Christ’s appearance in the Americas, her eyes went wide, and she said, “I KNEW Christ didn’t just visit the people in Jerusalem!”

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Christmas was pretty great. The members take really good care of the missionaries; a few sisters gave us presents, and we spent Christmas Eve and Christmas day with the Venegas family. The food was absolutely fantastic; they really know how to cook. I am so grateful for the Venegas family; they gave us a beautiful Christmas, and they do so much for the ward and for the missionaries. We are greatly blessed.

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It’s a short e-mail this week, but know that I love you all! Know that God is watching over you and loves to hear your prayers. He can help you learn from every difficulty, every problem, and He’s with you every step of the way.

Until next week! Take care!

Love,
Hermana Saunders

Week 20: In which Hermana Saunders builds a temple

Dear friends and family,

I’ve had some really great moments this week. On Wednesday the entire mission got together for our Christmas devotional, and it was fantastic! We had a really beautiful musical devotional, and this time it was my turn to be part of the audience and enjoy the magic of the music. (It’s difficult to sing with a cold. Stupid change of weather. But I’m better now. πŸ™‚ ) We were gone all day because the chapel where we met was two hours away. We played Mafia in the bus on the way there and back. It was fun. πŸ˜€

On Wednesday I learned that when we set a goal with faith and do our best to reach it, Heavenly Father will help us meet it. During daily planning on Tuesday, we couldn’t confirm any appointments for Wednesday because we didn’t know what time we would get home. But I wanted to make a goal of at least one referral received because even if we weren’t in our sector, we could receive a phone call or one from the office. As we were walking to our apartment from the bus stop, we received a call from a member in Maquehue, who had a reference for us! We wrote down the reference and were able to make an appointment for later this week. I know that Heavenly Father saw our faith and that when we do all we can to reach a worthy goal, Heavenly Father does His part too.

We spent a lot of time contacting, and we met a few really great prospective investigators. One is Daphne; we talked with her in the street and set an appointment for later this week! She’s very interested and remembers the missionaries passing by a few times when she was much younger.

This week was also evidence that God can use what seems to be an accident to work miracles. We’ve been looking for and working with part-member families, especially those of less-actives. Due to a mix-up of streets on Thursday, we found a sister who has been less-active for many years because she can’t walk to the church. Miracle! Her husband isn’t a member, but two of her grandchildren recently were baptized in a different ward, and we’re going to keep visiting her and her family.

Today we had an activity with the entire zone, all 22 missionaries. We built cookie houses, and in true missionary fashion, every team built a temple. πŸ˜› But only ours had “Holiness to the Lord” on it. πŸ˜‰

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Every day I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this great work. I’m grateful that God sees all of our efforts and is always at my side as I sometimes stumble in my way. I love the quote, “Christ doesn’t make up the difference; He IS the difference.” Grace is such a marvelous gift, and I love this holiday to celebrate the reason I rejoice.

Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope you’ll remember the reason why the angels came with “good tidings of great joy.” Through Christ we have joy, peace, and “hope for a better world.” I love you all!

Love,
Hermana Saunders

Week 19: In which Hermana Saunders experiences growing pains

Dearest family and friends,

Hermana Bazaes transferred up north to Arauco, and now I’m serving with Hermana Chavez from Bolivia. She’s pretty great, although as with everything, it was a transition. πŸ™‚ This week has really stretched me, and it’s been hard, but I’m also grateful for what I’m learning. Since Hermana Chavez doesn’t know English, I have to rely completely on the Spanish that I do know. I realized that I know a lot more than I thought, and it’s a good feeling. Some days I feel a little like I’m walking in too-big shoes and stumbling a lot, but I can feel Heavenly Father helping me. I know I’m not alone in this work.

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I don’t think I really understood “love the members” until I led the sector this week. Until this transfer, I think I’ve mostly been going through the motions of missionary work; my heart was definitely in it, but I felt like I was mostly following Hermana Bazaes. But this week as I’ve taken more initiative to talk to the members and investigators and plan to meet their needs, I’ve felt something special growing in my heart. I feel my love for them growing, and I love the work more too.

On Monday we spent time with several members for a kind of farewell for Hermana Bazaes. The members show their love through food, and it’s really good food. Not great for the waistline, but…

On Tuesday morning I saw Hermana Bazaes off at the bus terminal. It was the weirdest feeling watching her drive off in the bus with me standing in the terminal. I waited with other missionaries who were also waiting to receive their new companions. We waited for about six hours in the terminal; at one point, a few missionaries pulled out hymn books and started singing Christmas hymns quietly, and then an elder pulled everyone together, and we sang for the other people waiting in the terminal. We sounded pretty good, if I do say so myself. πŸ˜‰

This week a lot of things fell through, but it was just an opportunity for us to see the people who needed us and for Heavenly Father to show us tender mercies. Also, there are so many fresh fruits and veggies available here, and the flavor is fuller here than in the States. It seems like everyone has at least one fruit tree, and we pass so many cherry trees absolutely bursting with ripe cherries. BUT all of the ripe cherries are at the top, waaaay out of the reach of two poor sisters on the ground. But yesterday a member gave us a huge bag of cherries; we ate about half of them on our way home. They where so good! I am a happy hermana. πŸ˜‰

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I wish I had all day to write, but that’s all the time I have today. I love you all! I appreciate your prayers, and I know Heavenly Father is listening. I know He loves you individually, and He wants to help you. You are His children, and He has a plan for you. Have faith in Him, and let Him lead you, and youΒ΄ll find your life is better than you could ever have made on your own.

Ciao for now! Have a great week!
Love,
Hermana Saunders

Week 18: in which the Hermanas melt just a little

Dear family and friends,

The weather here is seriously loco. It’ll be cloudy and cold in the morning but in the high 80s in the afternoon. We’ve had some really hot days, and it seems like the temp is creeping into the 90s. Whoo. BUT on the plus side, summer means a wonderful abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables, and just about every single person has some kind of fruit tree. Seriously, the fruit and veggies here are like candy. I am a very happy hermana. πŸ™‚

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This week Hermana Poyfair completed 11 months in the mission, Hermana Bazaes completed 6 months, and I completed 4! We celebrated with sushi on Wednesday, and Hermanas Poyfair and Alarcon bought cupcakes for Hermana B and me on Thursday. (There’s a cupcake shop in their sector that sells absolutely divine cupcakes. Great for the spirit, less for the waistline. πŸ˜‰ )

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This week, I learned a very important lesson about teaching people, not lessons. We’ve been a little frustrated with an investigator because every time we tried to teach her about the restoration, she would go off on some tangent, and we would completely lose the lesson. We spent about three weeks like this, and we wanted so badly for her to progress. Finally, this week we both felt like we should teach about the Plan of Salvation, not the Restoration. We changed our plans, and we were able to discover and answer many big questions that she and her daughter had. We had been talking for about a month, but we hadn’t really been listening or asking the right questions, and we had been trying to teach the wrong lesson. I’m really excited to teach her and her daughter, and I know they both can find great joy and peace in the gospel.

We had other miracles on Sunday. Daniela, the girlfriend of Miguelangelo, came to sacrament meeting! She doesn’t have much time on Sundays because she has to pick up her daughter from the campo, but she and Miguelangelo took the time for sacrament meeting, and she said she enjoyed it. Also, Ricardo, one of our newer investigators, asked us to call him to wake him up on Sunday morning, and he’s participating in mutual! I’m so happy to see our investigators grow in the gospel and find greater joy, hope, and peace. It is truly a great privilege.

In my studies, I’ve realized how much this gospel is one of peace. The principles of forgiveness, hope, faith, and patience allow us to leave behind the pain and craziness of this world and enjoy peace in Christ. And when we refuse to forgive, we can never feel real peace.

I have a million other things that I learned this week, and I’ve run out of time, but know that I love you all! Never forget that your Heavenly Father loves you perfectly and wants to hear from you. If you’re struggling, you can trust in the grace of Jesus Christ to carry you. Truly, through His grace, we can do all things.

Have a great week! Ciao for now!

Love,
Hermana Saunders

P.S. Hermana Bazaes is transferring. She’ll leave on Tuesday, and my new comp, Hermana Chavez, will be here on Tuesday afternoon. I’ve heard many good things about her. πŸ™‚ I appreciate your prayers and am forever grateful for your support!