Week 62: in which resistance is futile

Dear friends and family,

I didn’t write yesterday [October 9] because it was a work holiday here in Chile, something about the Evangelist church. I’m not sure…Chile has all kinds of random holidays that pop up every once in a while.

It rained all week this week, with a brief respite on the weekend. It’s so true that rainy days help one appreciate even more the warmth and joy of sunshine. ๐Ÿ˜ย  Even with rain boots, jackets, and umbrellas, we still got wet, which resulted in a fun cold this weekend. Yay! ๐Ÿ˜› But it’s not too bad, and the work goes on. ๐Ÿ˜€

We spent Friday night and Saturday morning prepping the church, and then Rayen got baptized on Saturday night! It was a wonderful experience, and it’s been a privilege to work with her and her family. Her family came on Sunday as well, and in Gospel Principles class, her sister, Alejandra, talked about the tranquility that has come into their home as they’ve listened to the missionaries and put the principles into practice. Rayen has a great support system, and she’s very content with her decision. I felt God’s love for her in her baptism, and I know her family felt it as well. ๐Ÿ˜Š

We’re working with another less-active family, Marcela and her daughter Antonia. Antonia is 11 and excited to learn more. Her mom is working to reactivate and really wants her daughter to have the same knowledge and blessings that she enjoyed when she was active. We taught Antonia about prophets on Saturday, and her aunt, who lives with her, shared her testimony about the blessing of having a prophet in these times. I look forward to helping the whole family find greater peace and happiness in the gospel.

Monday was a regular P-day, except that we didn’t write. Nancy, Rayen’s mom, invited us to eat lunch with the family, and then she taught us how to knit! ๐Ÿ˜€ It was a lot of fun, although I’ve already forgotten how to start a new row…but that’s why you ask. ;P Later that night we had a Family Home Evening with the Sister Faviola and her three little kids. They led everything: the lesson, the game, the prayers and songs. They were so cute!! It reminded me of FHE with my family when we were little. Then, later that same night, we had FHE with Rayen’s family. I taught them how to make brownies, and we shared a lesson about service and gratitude. I really love that family, and I’m grateful to be a part of this part of their lives.

I read this morning in Alma 32 and in Ether 12 in the Book of Mormon. They both talk about the nature of faith, and I wanted to share a couple insights from my studies. Alma invites us to allow “even a particle of faith” to lead us to act on something we’ve learned. And in whom should we place that particle of faith? In Jesus Christ and in His teachings, whether we hear those teachings from His own mouth or that of His prophets, “it is the same” (Amos 3:7). Alma promises that if we’ll do that, we’ll know for ourselves if that “seed” is good or bad, but we have to DO something first. Faith, as Ether says, means that we trust in something we can’t see yet but know to be true because Christ has taught us that. We can have faith that as we repent, we’ll receive forgiveness and the power to change. We can have faith that we’ll receive healing–physical or spiritual–and wisdom if we ask for it in sincere and humble prayer. Maybe we can’t see the difference just yet, but with faith we keep working, trusting that God will keep the promises He’s made.

I love you all. Each of you have touched my life for good, and I’m grateful for what you’ve taught me. May you always trust in your Heavenly Father, and may you always remember who you are.

Love,
Hermana Saunders

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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… ๐Ÿ˜ฌ 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. ๐Ÿ˜)

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!” ๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜„ ย 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! ๐Ÿ˜›

Week 40: in which the Hermanas get shot

Dear family and friends,

*ahem* SHOTS. Sorry, forgot the last “s” in the title. ๐Ÿ˜ We’re fine and newly vaccinated against the flu. Yay for flu season!

I get more excited as we get closer to the weekend of Lorena’s baptism. (IT’S ON SATURDAY!!) She’s excited as well and so sure of her decision. It’s been a privilege to be a part of her conversion process. Her story is also evidence that even if you don’t understand everything perfectly, what you do know and the quiet confirmation of the Holy Ghost is enough to guide you on the right path. She’s shown so much faith in her preparation, and I’m so glad that she also has the support of Gabriel.

On Thursday we had our regular transfer interviews with President and Hermana May. I am so grateful for such wonderful leaders, for their love, dedication, and counsel. Plus, Hermana May makes incredible chocolate chip cookies that she brings to every interview. ๐Ÿ˜„

On Saturday we had a wonderful miracle. During the zone attack last week, the hermanas found Martin, the 9-year-old grandson of an inactive member. He said he wanted to be baptized, but when we visited him for the first time, he didn’t seem to have any kind of family support: his parents didn’t want to listen, and his grandma had no interest in returning to the church. This week we prayed that his parents would listen because if he didn’t, he wouldn’t have the support he needed to progress, and we wouldn’t be able to teach him. When we went to the lesson on Saturday, his parents stopped what they were doing and participated in the lesson! They don’t understand the gospel very well yet, but they want to keep listening. Their progress might be a little slow, but I know they felt the Spirit while we were with them, and they want to know more. I love teaching families!

Although Hermana Lange is preparing to go home, we’ve been working harder than ever. I’m grateful for her work ethic and for the example she is to me. I feel like we’ve learned a lot from each other, and she’s helping me break some bad habits as well. I’ve learned a lot about communication and applying and relying on the Atonement, and I’m grateful for the growth I’ve seen in this past transfer. I’ve really tried to apply the counsel in Ether 12 to rely on God to make our weaknesses our strengths. Sometimes I feel frustrated because, progress-wise, I feel like I’m doing the cha-cha: one step forward, two steps back. But that frustration doesn’t come from God, nor is it helpful. Instead I’m learning to accept that I’m still going to have a hard time, but I can still work hard and do better–maybe not perfectly, but better–the next time. I know that the promise of the atonement is real and that God gives us second, third, fourth chances. He truly loves us, His children.

That’s it for this week! Remember who you are and whose you are. Be grateful for what you have and for the challenges that bring growth. And don’t forget to pray!

Love from Chile,
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. ๐Ÿ˜€ 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.

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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 Concepciรณn on Friday to meet with the missionaries of the our mission and the Concepciรณn 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. ยฟLo harรกn? ๐Ÿ˜‰

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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. ๐Ÿ˜€ 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. ๐Ÿ˜‰ How very true. ๐Ÿ™‚

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

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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. ๐Ÿ˜€ 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 30: in which the hermanas take the cake

Dear family and friends,

We waited anxiously by the phone as we waited to know transfers Saturday night. I was a little sad–but not really surprised–when we found out that Hermana Nielson is headed to another zone to be with–here’s the surprise–Hermana Clark, my companion from the CCM!! ๐Ÿ˜€ And Hermana Lange, who was Hermana Nielson’s companion in the CCM, will be MY new companion! And now all of my companions are or have been companions with each other. Que locito el mundo. ๐Ÿ˜€

This week I had the marvelous opportunity to attend two baptisms, one of the daughter of a member, and the other of the elders’ investigator, Benjamin. Benja’s baptism was literally a miracle; for a long time, his dad was so against him getting baptized (his mom’s a member), but he finally saw how much Benja truly wanted it and how much it meant to him. Both baptisms were beautiful, and I was honestly bursting with joy to see two more children of God make covenants with him and enter the gate to so many more eternal blessings. I also had the opportunity to play the hymns for both baptisms; it wasn’t perfect, but I love being able to share what I can. ๐Ÿ˜€

We promised Benja that we would bring cupcakes to his baptism (his grandma set up this huge table with refreshments afterwards), so on Friday night we made cupcakes with his grandma. It was fun because cupcakes were a new idea to her, so we got to show her something new. ๐Ÿ˜€ We finished frosting them the next morning, and they were a hit at the baptism. Score two for the hermanas!

English classes were interesting this week. We had a great lesson with the two people that showed up on Wednesday, and then I had a great time practicing for the baptism when nobody showed up on Saturday. I’m hoping that we’ll be able to bring more people to the classes, and maybe when school starts we’ll have more people.

I love this scripture I found in personal study one day: “…let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power: and then we may stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed” (Doctrine and Covenants 123:17). It was a good reminder for me when I felt a little like I was chasing my tail in the sector. I must work diligently and with a good attitude with the faith that, in God’s perfect timing, my work will bear fruit, and the people I meet may one day enjoy the “salvation of God.” I don’t have to see it now because I know that nothing I do is ever wasted.

Thursday was a great day with a conference with Elder Packer, the son of the former President Packer. I left with a ton of energy to work, and I’m grateful for what I learned.

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I’m sad to send off Hermana Nielson tomorrow, and I’m grateful for the cambio we had together. I’m so grateful for companions; there’s safety in numbers, yes, but I’ve also learned so much from her. She’s a hard worker and really loves the people here. She’ll do great wherever she is. And I’m looking forward to this new adventure with Hermana Lange. ๐Ÿ˜ฌ

I’ll leave you with a quote from Tuesday’s district meeting: “People are rewarded in public for things they’ve practiced for years in private.” (can’t remember who said that…) Maybe not everyone can see how you’ve progressed over the days, months, years, but rest assured that your Heavenly Father always can, and it makes Him so happy to see that.

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

Lots of love,
Hermana Saunders

Week 12: in which Hermana Saunders receives an Evangelical blessing

Dearest family and friends,
Yeah, that was an interesting experience. We’ve contacted more Pentecostals and Evangelicals than Catholics this transfer, and it’s always an interesting experience. We met Margarita on the 22nd. She had a very special spirit about her and listened closely to our message. She said we were “angelic” and that she felt something special about us. Before we left her, she prayed for us–more specifically for me, I think because I’m in a different country trying to teach in a different language. It was a very different experience from a priesthood blessing.

It’s the week of Halloween, and I have seen ONE house that has any kind of decorations. It’s a little odd for me, but at the same time, I kinda like that Halloween isn’t a big deal here.

On Thursday we took a 5-hour bus ride to Concepcion, where we stayed the night for Return and Report on Friday. R&R is a time when the newest missionaries return to the mission office to meet with the mission president and gather with the other new missionaries. It was great to see Hermana Clark again, as well as the elders from my CCM district. It was nice that they were happy to see me too. ๐Ÿ™‚

The greatest miracle of this week was everything that happened on Friday. We had a baptism that was supposed to start at 7, but we were in Concepcion until almost 3, and it takes 4-5 hours by bus to get back to Temuco. Thankfully, our mission president and his wife were able to drive us back, which took about 3 hours, and they stayed for the baptism. I am positive that their decision to go was divinely inspired. Others of the baptism were 1. We were able to pick up Catalina at the terminal (she had been in Los Angeles, Chile, with her dad); 2. she had almost everything that she needed with her; 3. her mom and family arrived in time to bring everything else she needed and to be there for her service; 4. we had enough water in the font; 5. a member lent her a towel, which was the only other thing she lacked; 6. Claudia, an absolutely WONDERFUL member, was there to help us: and 7. all of the speakers were present. The opposition was very real that day, but we also had the Spirit to guide us, which was an enormous blessing.

One more miracle of Friday: Hermana Bazaes and I had planned to bring a simple breakfast to the family the next morning, partly to show our love and support and also because the family lives in VERY humble circumstances. On the way home Friday night, we were able to find a tienda that sold exactly what we needed, and we had plenty of time to get home. This weekend has been a demonstration of Heavenly Father’s love for His children. The salvation of each one is important, and everything is in His loving and capable hands.

It was also a demonstration of the fact that we receive miracles AFTER a trial of our faith. I’m grateful for the incredible faith of Hermana Bazaes. Where I struggled to have faith that everything would be fine, she never wavered. I’m learning every day the power of faith and how essential it is.

Last bit of news: I’m staying in Temuco Cautin with Hermana Bazaes for another transfer! (A transfer is a six-week period withing the mission; every transfer, missionaries either stay in the area or are switched to a new area within the mission.) I look forward to another six weeks of growth and learning and miracles.

I love you all! I leave you with a challenge: I love the words of the prophet Lehi in 1 Nephi 8:12. He felt such great joy in the fruit, or the love of God. And what does he do immediately after he tastes of this great joy? He shares it. My invitation to you is that you consider the joy you’ve found in the gospel. Who around you needs this delicious joy in their life? Why not share it? You literally have the opportunity to bring salvation to others. So do it!

I pray for you every day. Never forget that Heavenly Father loves you very much. You are his children, and He always listens when you pray and is watching over you every day.

Ciao! Until next week!

Love,
Hermana Saunders