Week 39: in which OOOOHHHHHH! I’M HALFWAY THEEEERREE!

WOOO-OOH! LIVIN´ ON A PRAAAYER!

Dear family and friends,

Whew! How quickly nine months goes! I love being a missionary here in Chile. I could not have chosen a better way to spend 18 months of my life. 😀

We didn’t write yesterday because it was Worker’s Day here in Chile. We didn’t quite realize what that meant, so we left in the morning to buy groceries, and literally every. single. supermarket was closed. Apparently on this day nobody works unless they are emergency people or own their own business because you can’t ask employees to work. So Hermana Lange and I had a fun adventure downtown taking out money and finding a great little Ecuadorian market. 😀 And we wrote and shopped today.

This week we’ve seen the beginnings of winter. The weather still randomly switches to spring some days, but fall is definitely ending. Winter here is COLD, with lots of rain. Right now it just kinda spits randomly, but everyone says that when it rains here in the winter, it POURS. So this’ll be fun. 😀 Lots of fun puddles to jump in. 😉 (Don’t worry, I’m bundling up.)

It is really a privilege to find people who sincerely want to make changes in their lives. On Friday we had an attack in Villa Obispo, in which all of the missionaries in our zone came here to help us and the elders find people to teach. I was with another sister, Hermana Lobos, when Jason from Colombia contacted us in the street! He doesn’t know much about God, but he wants to know Him better and make changes in his life. And we also found Rafael this week, who wants to find his faith again and is gaining an incredible testimony of the gospel. He’s had a new light in his face since we started teaching him, and it’s wonderful to see. 🙂

Sunday was another beautiful day. Gabriel received the priesthood during church, which was an incredible experience. The Spirit was so strong in that moment, and I look back on that day with an enormous gratitude for the men who live worthily to use their priesthood to bless the children of God. And he and Lorena are just so happy–not without problems, but happy. We had a fantastic lesson about the Plan of Salvation yesterday, and Lorena said it brought her more peace to not only know that God has a plan but to also understand it. I just love her. 😄

A sister in our ward shared this with me this week, and I loved it: “The difference between who you are and who you want to become depends on what you do TODAY.” Progress is an eternal principle, and perfection is our goal. God wants us to eventually become like Him, and He gives us every opportunity to progress. However, He will never FORCE us to progress or make changes. That has to come from us. So I’ll leave y’all with this invitation: What will YOU do TODAY so that tomorrow you are closer to the person you want to be–or more importantly, to whom GOD wants you to be?

Be safe, be kind, be grateful. And remember who you are!
I love you all! Best wishes from Chile!
Love,
Hermana Saunders

Week 38: in which lots of cool things happen :D

Dear family and friends,

Gabriel got baptized on Saturday and confirmed on Sunday! He came to church in his suit and tie, and he looked like a future stake president. 😀 I’m so happy and grateful to be part of his conversion process. And his girlfriend, Lorena, accepted a baptismal date on Thursday! She says that she’s been searching for real personal change, changes that never came from confessions or reciting. In the gospel is the only place she’s really felt a change of heart, and she wants to really feel forgiven. Both she and Gabriel want to raise a family within the church. The Spirit was so strong in that lesson, and I’m so excited for the great family they’ll become.

SANY0087

Friday was a pretty incredible day. I can now say that I’ve had the chance to meet an apostle of the Lord! President Nelson and his wife came to Concepción on Friday to meet with the missionaries of the our mission and the Concepción Mission. I wish I had brought my notes so that I could share more thoughts with you, but it was an incredible conference. President Nelson and his wife and Elder Teixeira (of [the Quorum of] the Seventy) and his wife all spoke. P. Nelson spoke a lot about the Book of Mormon. He told us to mentally highlight the influence of the BoM in our lives, press “delete,” and think about what our lives would lack if we didn’t have the clarity and second witness of the Book of Mormon. Among the many things I’d lack is the knowledge that children who die without baptism are saved in Christ; that God spoke–and speaks–to all of His children, in every part of the world; and that I can be forgiven and made new through the atonement of Christ. How precious this knowledge is! I invite you all to do this same activity and then make the commitment to making scripture study a priority. ¿Lo harán? 😉

SANY0075

On Wednesday we were in the house almost all day because of the 2017 Censo. It’s a law in Chile that you can’t leave until you’ve been counted, so we took advantage of that time to deep clean the apartment. We found some pretty neat stuff, including a couple sparkly party hats. 😀 The great thing about deep-cleaning in the fall is the lack of spiders lurking in the corners.

Every day I’m so grateful for the opportunity and great privilege of being a missionary in Chile. Not every day is bright sunshine, and not everyone wants to talk to the friendly neighborhood gringas, but the opposition makes the sunshine and converts all the more sweet. I’m also grateful for the principle of continuous progress; I’ve got a lot to work on, but what a blessing to know I’m not doing it alone! I know that I–and every single one of you–have my Father in Heaven and my Savior Jesus Christ cheering me on, as well as loved ones here and there.

That’s all for this week! Know that I love you all! Remember that you are a beloved child of your Heavenly Father, and His work and glory is your eternal happiness and salvation. How does that make you feel?

Be safe. Be smart. Be kind. And be grateful!

Love from Chile,
Hermana Saunders

P.S. I wanted to share a bit of wisdom I found in a bus stop bathroom last week: “Sometimes God doesn’t change your situation because what he wants to change is your HEART.” Probably the most inspirational graffiti I’ve seen. 😉 How very true. 🙂

Week 37: in which WE GET READY FOR A BAPTISM!!

SANY0057

Dearest family and friends,

This week has been a great week. We’re preparing for Gabriel’s baptism on Saturday, and I’m so excited!!! I’ve honestly never met someone so prepared for and so dedicated to baptism. Gabriel’s testimony is growing stronger every day, and he’s so sure of his choice. The lessons we’ve had with him and his girlfriend, Lorena, are some of the most spiritual lessons I’ve had. It’s beautiful to see the difference in their lives after they’ve learned and applied the gospel principles; as they’ve made changes and sacrifices, I’ve seen a different light enter their faces, and their love has grown so much in the few weeks that they’ve lived completely the law of chastity. And Lorena, who at first was so nervous about accepting the gospel, has become more sure of herself and even asked when she could host a Family Home Evening in her house. 😀 And Gabriel is preparing to go to the temple with the ward in May!! He’s excited to do baptisms.

Another miracle! In my first cambio here we contacted a guy named Miguel, who is a friend of a less-active member, Christian. We tried for two cambios to set up a lesson with Miguel, but we never could, so we gave up on that. We’re teaching Christian’s pareja, Valeria, who is making progress after several months of hearing the missionaries. We had a lesson scheduled with Valeria, but when we got there, she wasn’t there, but Miguel was! So we taught him instead, and he accepted a fehca!! He really wants to learn more, and it’ll be great to see the changes in his life.

And more miracles! On Friday we had an attack in Laja, a different sector. (An attack is when the zone descends on a sector to contact different parts of the sector in an effort to find new investigators for the missionaries in that area.) We were there all day and came home with enough time for language study. The sisters from another zone stayed the night, so they volunteered to work in our sector (they’re native speakers, so they don’t need to study Spanish. :P). We sent them to a couple contacts, neither of which were there. BUT they did find a family when they contacted in another street!! Hermana Lange and I have a lesson with them this week, and we’re looking forward to teaching them.

In total contrast to the happiness I’ve seen in the lives of those who apply the gospel, I’ve also seen the sadness and emptiness of those who reject the gospel and therefor lose the blessings they once had. We’ve visited a few less-active and inactive members this week, and the lack of the Spirit in their houses made me so sad. In one family, the father yearns for what they once had and wants to come back, but the mom and daughter could not seem to care less. They were offended by something the members here had done, and the mom said that she has no intentions of returning. They were not just rejecting the church: they were rejecting the power of the atonement in their lives and the opportunity to be an eternal family. It strengthened my testimony of the importance of doing the “small and simple things” like reading and praying every day, going to church every week, and paying tithing. It also helped me realize that I can never, ever live without the gospel in my life, and I could never deny what I know. I know that this is the restored gospel of Christ and that it is the one and only way to eternal life with our Heavenly Father and with our families. “There is no other name…by which men may be saved.” [Note: I think she may be paraphrasing Mosiah 3:17, but she also may be thinking of a non-scriptural quote. — AnnMarie]

I love you all! I hope you enjoyed a Christ-filled Easter. Never forget the love of your Savior. He paid for you specifically, and all He asks is that you accept Him and live His gospel. I testify that through Him you’ll find more peace and true happiness.

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

Love from Chile!
Hermana Saunders

Week 36: in which the team stays together!!

Dear family and friends,

We received transfers on Saturday, and Hermana Lange and I are staying together in Villa Obispo for another transfer!!! Wahoo! This means that I’ll “kill” Hermana Lange, or be with her until she goes home at the end of this transfer. 😿  We’re excited to work together a little longer, and we have lots of fun plans to make this transfer even better than the last.

This week has been a little crazy, with divisions with the hermanas caps and a fantastic English class on Wednesday (in which I learned how to say “pathological liar” in Spanish…), another Gran Intercambio on Thursday, correlation with our ward mission leader on Friday, and a zone training as well as an open house on Saturday. And Sunday was another great day because Valeria came to church!!!!!!!!! I almost cried I was so happy when she walked in just before they passed the sacrament. She’s been talking with the missionaries since October of last year, and yesterday was the first time she’s been to church. I’m excited for her because she’s really beginning to apply the gospel in her life, and it can only help her family. And Gabriel is just an incredible human being. We taught them (him and Lorena) the Word of Wisdom on Friday, and he told us that he threw out his coffee after a few lessons! He is absolutely determined in his decision to get baptized, and he’s willing to do whatever he needs to do. We had to move his baptismal date for the next week, but he’s still excited.

I’ve run out of time for today, but know that I love you all! Be safe, be smart, and be patient. God loves you and watches over you.

Until next week!

Love,
Hermana Saunders

Week 35: in which there is an attack of hermanas

Dear family and friends,
Wow! We’re at the end of another transfer! Hermana Lange and I are confident that we’ll stay together in Villa Obispo for this next transfer, so neither of us are stressed about it.

I love working with the members! On Monday night we had a Family Home Evening with the family Sanhueza Bravo, and they invited our investigator Lorena and her son, Martin. We talked about the importance of scripture study, ate yummy food, and had a great time. I love that family, and it was great to show Lorena that not all of the members are as strange as the missionaries. 😉

On Thursday all 6 of the hermanas in our zone worked in Cabrero, a pueblito a little ways from LÁ. The hermanas stationed there split off with hermanas from other sectors, and we contacted, went to appointments, and contacted some more to help the two hermanas in that sector find more people to teach. We call this an “attaque” (attack), and generally it works pretty well for finding new people. It was fun.

CONFERENCE WEEKEND! If you didn’t watch all of it this weekend, MAKE time to watch it again! You will not waste a single second. (General Conference is when leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints talk to the entire church by a satellite transmission.) I didn’t get to watch any of it in English, but the best part of living in the 21st Century is that I can download it and listen to it later. 😀 Yay for technology! Plus it was cool to realize how much I understood. I neglected to bring my notes, so I don’t have what I wanted to share with y’all; you’ll just have to watch it yourself. 😉 And Elder Renlund alluded to Les Mis!! 😀

Yesterday I completed EIGHT MONTHS in the mission! Wow. My wonderful compi made pancakes for me to celebrate, and the other hermanas fixed up a little “Feliz Cumplemes!” sign for me. I felt loved. 😄

Honestly, Sunday is the day of miracles. We finally found an investigator whom we haven’t seen for almost three weeks; she has shown a sincere interest in learning, but she has been called into work before almost every single appointment! But she has until Easter off, so we’re good now. I look forward to teaching her. On Sunday we weren’t able to get into any houses, but a future told us that she was really interested, the mother of a different future said she was interested, and we set several return appointments. I felt pretty good about it.

I’m learning more each day the wisdom of Nike’s slogan: “Just do it!” Things like contacting in the street often scare me, but I’m realizing how many opportunities I miss when I hesitate or debate. That’s been one of my greatest challenges in the mission: overcoming the fear of acting. In Conference someone talked about the Holy Ghost as the still, small voice that directs us to do good and how the first thought is generally the prompting. For a while I was frustrated because I couldn’t figure out when it was my thought and when it was the Holy Ghost. I’m learning that “all good things come from God,” and if it directs me to do good, I shouldn’t worry so much. Looking back, I’ve realized how many times it really was the Holy Ghost, and I’m grateful for when I did listen and sad for when I didn’t. I’m learning more and more each day that God really does have things in His loving, more-than-capable hands.

I love you all! Be safe. Be smart. Be kind. And watch Conference! Go to lds.org, and you’ll find it easily. Tell them I sent you. 😉

Until next week!
Love,
Hermana Saunders

Week 34: in which the well runs dry

Dear family and friends,

I love that old saying, “You don’t miss the water until the well runs dry.” Well, I got a taste of that on Tuesday when we woke up and had no water in the apartment. Then I was very grateful for the counsel to always have an emergency store of water–even more grateful that I listened! That was the only way we were able to cook and wash dishes before we went to the district meeting. You don’t realize how much water you use until you have to pour and heat all of it yourself. 😛

Chile played soccer against Argentina on Thursday night, which meant that absolutely NO ONE wanted to talk to the missionaries. 😛 I’m grateful for the new schedule that allows us to study at hours like that. As we were studying, we could hear shouts and cheers from the other apartments. I love soccer, but it’s a little more frustrating in the mission. 😛

I think one of the greatest struggles in the mission is watching people literally hold the Restoration in their hands and refusing to accept it or just not listening. We’ve talked with a few families and other people who have said that yes, Christ’s gospel needed a restoration, but it’s “impossible for that to happen because the people today are so messed up and just want things for themselves.” But experiences like those make it even sweeter when we find someone who is accepting of the message and makes changes because of it. I love teaching Gabriel and Lorena, and I was so very happy when the whole family (Gabriel, Lorena, and Martin, Lorena’s son) went to church on Sunday! And they enjoyed it! The members were really great too: one of the sisters came and sat with Lorena, and Benjamin, a recent convert of the elders, invited Martin to the Primary classes! We also had a few members at church who haven’t attended for many months. It was wonderful to see those people progressing.

On Friday we had an intercambio with the training sisters. I worked with Hermana Calderon, a very spunky Colombiana. Every single one of our appointments fell through, but we saw some miracles. One of our appointments was with a reference; when we got there, he wasn’t there, but one of his employees was! So we taught her, and she accepted the invitation to be baptized!! She’s in Hermana Calderon’s sector, so Hermana Lange and I won’t teach her, but it was still cool. 😀

I had the idea a couple weeks ago to contact people in the street using the Cootie Catcher game (AKA Fortune Teller). It’s actually been pretty effective; it catches people’s attention, and I feel a lot less awkward about talking with them. Instead of revealing their “fortune” at the end of the game, we wrote several questions like “Will I be with my loved ones after I die?” and we ask them how they would answer it. Then we share with them how they can find that answer through the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s great. 😀

Every day I learn more about the Atonement, grace, and progress. I’m grateful for the experiences that have made God’s hand even more evident in my life, and I’m forever grateful for His infinite patience. I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn from the best missionary and teacher, Jesus Christ. I won’t do everything perfectly, but I know He’s helping me at least do it a little better every day,

I love you all! I invite you to watch General Conference this weekend with a question. I promise you’ll find the answer and the strength you need to act of that answer. I’m so excited for Conference weekend!!

Be safe. Be kind. Be patient. And remember who you are!

Love from Chile,
Hermana Saunders

Week 33: in which it’s a nice day for a Chilean wedding

Dear family and friends,

Calm down, it’s not my own wedding. I’m not that trunky. 😛 On Saturday we helped the hermanas of another ward with a wedding of their investigators. It was a sweet wedding, but let me tell you, it was one of the oddest weddings I have ever attended. But hey, that’s what happens when you leave the wedding details to the missionaries. ;P

The week before we asked three families to pray to know what friends/families/coworkers they could invite to listen to the missionaries. None of them gave us names (yet, anyway), but through each family we ended up finding new people: a friend of one of the girls went to church with her this week and agreed to meet with us; a brother who was visiting at lunch also came to church and wants to know more; and the other family will go with us to visit Gabriel. So even though they didn’t give us names on purpose, God still sent people their way. I love miracles. 😬

English classes have been interesting. Either nobody goes, or we have two or three people. But it´s fun when I do get the chance to teach something. But it never beats teaching the gospel. 😀

It is truly a privilege to teach Gabriel. I have honestly never met someone so truly prepared to accept the gospel. He loves going to church and has asked how he can pay tithing. The Sunday before last he was impressed with the priesthood class, in which they talked about the importance of women in the church and families. He said that he had planned to take a trip to Miami, but now he wants to go to Salt Lake so he can visit the temple. Hermana Lange and I swallowed about twenty flies on Sunday, our mouths dropped open so often when we talked to him. It makes me so happy to see him become truly converted. It’s amazing, and I wish he could share a little of his amazingness with other investigators who are struggling.

We had an incredible conference on Wednesday with President and Sister May. I wish I´d brought my notes to share with you, but know that I left that meeting very much uplifted and with a lot of energy. 😀

I would like to share something else I’ve learned this week. Often we become very discouraged because we aren’t where we want to be and because we keep making the same stupid mistakes over and over again. We wonder how on earth we can really be forgiven, how we could ever be better. But I love what Brad Wilcox says about the Atonement: “Perfection is our long-term goal, but for now our goal is progress, CONTINUOUS progress, made possible through the CONTINUOUS Atonement” (The Continuous Atonement). The Atonement and the patience of our Heavenly Father never “runs out.” There is no expiration date, no limit that we can reach. Christ promised to forgive us as often as we repent. That means every. single. time. What an amazing promise.

Know that I love you all! And know that so does your Heavenly Father.

Be safe. Be smart. Be kind. Be patient.

Until next week!
Love,
Hermana Saunders