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 Custódio had our own “fourth floor, last door” 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 Ángeles for that.)
  • Another investigator, Paola, accepted a baptismal date after much time of being scared to make a decision. She has a little bit more preparation time, but she said that she´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 Custódio 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. 😀 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. 😀

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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  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 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. 😛

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 Custódio 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 Custódio and I have lot of fun together. 😀

Fun thing about this ward: they love the missionaries. 😀 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. 😝  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. 😀
  • 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. 😀 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 I get baptized” instead of “If I get baptized.”
  • Hermana Custódio has been teaching me Portuguese, which has been a lot of fun. I can now count to 100 and tell you about an apple. 😉 I’m hoping to end this cambio speaking Spanish, English, French, AND Portuguese. 😀
  • 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. 😀 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 Custódio 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! 😀 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 😀 (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 Custódio and I have decided that our motto for this cambio is “¡A la batalla con la fuerza del Señor!” (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 José 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 José 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. 😀

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.

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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! 😀

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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

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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. 🙂

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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.

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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 Concepción 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!

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Love from Chile,
Hermana Saunders

Week 41: in which Lorena gets baptized!!!!

Dear family and friends,

I apologize for the heart attack I gave to a few of you last week… 😬 Everything’s good here in Chile! Hermana Lange and I are working hard and enjoying every day we have together. I’m also bracing myself for the oncoming winter and the onslaught of bread, soups, and hot coco/Eco that come with it. (Eco is this really fantastic drink that’s kind of like coffee but made from wheat. I love it. 😁)

I hope everyone had a wonderful week! I especially hope that all of the moms were properly spoiled and appreciated for all of their love and hard work. The church released a really great video called “Life doesn’t come with a manual; it comes with a mother.” I’m so grateful for all of the moms who have worked so hard to love and teach their children. So happy (belated) Mother’s Day!!

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On Monday Lorena had her baptismal interview in the chapel. We walked her home and stopped by for a second to say hi to Gabriel and her son Martin. I asked Martin if he was excited for his mom to get baptized, and he said, “Yep! And I’m excited for my turn to come soon!” 😄😄  I love teaching families!!

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This weekend we had the privilege of being a part of Lorena’s baptism. It was incredible to watch Gabriel exercise the priesthood authority for the first time as he baptized Lorena. They were both so nervous! But everything turned out really great. I felt the Spirit so strong during the service, especially when Hermana Lange and I sang “Soy un hijo de Dios,” and the Spirit testified that yes, we are children of God, and He still guides us here so that one day we can all be with Him again. It is an incredible experience to be part of the work of salvation for the children of Heavenly Father.

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Miracles! Yesterday we finally found a set of twins that we contacted a couple weeks back, and they both accepted a baptismal date! They’re so great, although the lesson was interesting with their SIX dogs all over the place. On Tuesday, we found SEVEN news/THREE families!! (News is the name we give to the people we find, have a lesson with, and who want us to come back again. :D) We found all of them because we talk to everyone on the street and work to place an appointment for another day. It was evidence that when we work hard and apply the counsel of our leaders, God blesses our efforts, no matter how small they are. On Friday we had a lesson with Lesli, the friend of one of the young women in our ward. She’s one of the news we found on Tuesday, and she’s a wonderful girl who is honestly seeking to find the truth that will fill the empty space she feels in her life. Her mom is listening to the lessons as well, but she’s a little more hesitant to accept something different. I’m grateful for the little miracles I see in every day, and it’s been a blessing to see even more clearly God’s hand in every day.

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That’s it for this week! I hope everyone has a wonderful week full of miracles, both big and small. Remember that your Heavenly Father loves you and wants the best for you. Remember what the prophet Mosiah says in the Book of Mormon: “I would that you would remember the blessed and happy state of those who keep the commandments.” I’ve learned in the mission that the commandments are not a list of good ideas or a list of “Thou shalt nots” but a way of life that will bring lasting and true joy. They are the loving admonitions of a Heavenly Father to His children.

I love you all! Remember who you are!! Be safe, be kind, be grateful, be patient. And don’t forget to pray!

Love from Chile,
Hermana Saunders

P.S. I’m sorry I don’t have pics this week, but I’ll remember my camera next week for sure! 😛