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

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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 29: in which the Hermanas save the day!

Dear friends and family,

I hope every had a great Valentine’s Day! I wish I had counted the number of couples we saw on Tuesday, but Hermana Nielson and I were the only table without a couple in Papa John’s. 😛 (A member gave us money to eat where we wanted to, so we enjoyed that. :D)

We had a pretty great week, and I feel like we accomplished some good things. 😀 We met with Elisabeth, whom we contacted in the street a few weeks ago. We walk in to her apartment and surprise! Turns out we’ve also contacted her parents as well! Her mom is “Catholic until I die!” but Elisabeth is very open. We also started teaching the son of Mierta this week; he’s really interested in learning more about the church and participated a lot in the last lesson. He says that he’s only “trying it out” and that he needs to know more before he can form any kind of opinion, but I know that as he honestly seeks his answer, he’ll find the truth. I´m grateful we’re teaching him too because now he can help her.

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As a zone on Wednesday, we helped a sister clear her yard of branches, weeds, and other stuffs. Afterwards she made us a really yummy lunch that included sopaipillas, which is fry-bread and one of my weaknesses here in Chile. It’s definitely one of the reasons I’ve grown out a little here… Her husband also showed us around their huge country property. We walked to the river that was close to their house; it’s cool because people pay to camp close to this river, but they get a free(-ish) year-round pass!

We helped with an open house at the chapel in Laja on Saturday, which was a really great experience. At the open house we give tours of the church and give a crash-course version of the basic doctrine. I love it. As I testified again and again about basic beliefs that I hold dear, I felt quiet confirmations of the truthfulness of all of it. I am so grateful for my testimony, and I’ve learned how essential a solid testimony is. Hermana Nielson is a great example of this. She asks a lot of questions, but nothing seems to rock her faith. She shows that questions are good, but she does exactly what President Uchtdorf says we should: doubt our doubts before we doubt our faith. I’m grateful for her example.

[Here is his whole quote:

Some might ask, “But what about my doubts?”

“It’s natural to have questions—the acorn of honest inquiry has often sprouted and matured into a great oak of understanding. There are few members of the Church who, at one time or another, have not wrestled with serious or sensitive questions. One of the purposes of the Church is to nurture and cultivate the seed of faith—even in the sometimes sandy soil of doubt and uncertainty. Faith is to hope for things which are not seen but which are true.

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters—my dear friends—please, first doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith. We must never allow doubt to hold us prisoner and keep us from the divine love, peace, and gifts that come through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” – AnnMarie]

Sunday was a really great day. It started with the best part–sacrament meeting–and continued with some cool little miracles. We had probably one of the most interesting street contacts of my mission: We were walking down the street, looking for a house. Suddenly, a big dog started freaking out over the little dachshund of a lady who was walking close to us. She picked up her dog and kept walking, trying in vain to shoo the other dog away. Hermana Nielson picked up a rock, and the big dog shrank back a little farther but kept barking and still wouldn’t leave the lady alone. Finally a neighbor helped us out, and we stopped to talk to the lady. Turns out she lives in our apartment! We had a great conversation, and she’s interested in learning a little more. She was more interested in the English classes and Pilates, but she said she’ll listen. God has a funny way of putting people together.

That’s the highlights of this week. I love you all! Remember who you are and that your Heavenly Father is always listening and on your side. Be safe. Be smart. Be kind.

Love,
Hermana Saunders

Week 27: in which the Hermanas go on an ADVENTURE

Dear family and friends,

I can’t believe how quickly the weeks fly by! This week I completed SIX MONTHS in the mission! Wow…

We did a lot of contacting again this week, which hasn’t been too bad because this new schedule allows us to study and plan during the worst hours of the day. Plus the weather has been beautiful. 😀 Yesterday we found Mierta, a really sweet abuelita with a pretty sad story. She is so accepting and ready to listen to the gospel, and we’re excited to show her how the gospel can bless her life and help her feel the love of God more. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone more prepared, and I know that God guided us towards her.

Tuesday was a bit of an adventure. Our area includes a few pueblitos in the country, which requires travel by bus. An incredible family of recent converts lives in Tucapel, about 45 minutes away by bus. We planned to visit them because they won’t have a way to get to church for almost a month and a half while the bridge is bad. Because the bridge is bad, the trip in bus is longer–almost 2 hours–and a little more expensive, and fewer buses are driving that route. So we planned to spend almost all day there. Well, because of bad timing, we went and had a very short but wonderful half hour with them before sprinting to the bus stop to catch the last bus at 7…which didn’t come. And didn’t come… Luckily, we ran into another member, Jime, who was walking home at this time. He helped us figure things out and waited with us for a bus that someone said should come around 8:20. He was great company as we waited…and waited…and waited…for this bus that also never came… So we called our bishop, who drove from Los Ángeles with our ward mission leader to rescue the two gringas stranded in the campo. We got home around 10:15, well after our curfew, a little bruised ego-wise but otherwise just fine. 😛

The rest of the week consisted of handing out flyers for pilates classes on Wednesday, orientation for the new schedule and other changes on Thursday, French toast and spaghetti for lunch on Friday (our own creations 😉 ), pilates and English classes on Saturday, and a really great lesson with Mierta on Sunday. And today we went to Salto de Laja, a pretty waterfall about a half-hour away, where we spent the morning taking pictures (which will hopefully come next week…) and looking at cool touristy things. We had fun. 😀

Know that I love you all and pray for you often. I know that God is taking care of each of you, and I’m grateful for your prayers as well. I’ll leave you with this thought: “When we want to talk to God, we pray. When we want Him to talk to us, we read the scriptures.” I testify that the Bible and the Book of Mormon are words of God, and through them we can feel His love and guidance. Don’t neglect your scripture study; the treasures you’ll find in them will serve you better than any bauble you can find on Earth.

Take care!! Ciao for now!

Love,
Hermana Saunders

Week 25: in which Hermana Saunders travels the world

Dearest family and friends,

Hola from Los Angeles! Los Angeles, Chile, that is. 😉 It’s a little toasty here; it’s reached 100 degrees several times this week. But hey! At least the wash dries really quickly! Also, there’s one sector here where all of the street names are countries, everything from Estados Unidos to Japon. It’s great. 😀

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My new companion is Hermana Nielson. She’s fantastic, and we get along really well. However, I beginning to think that one of the things Heavenly Father is trying to teach me is how to compromise; He’s given me three companions who are wonderful people but COMPLETELY opposite of me. BUT we have a few very important things in common: we love the gospel and our mission; we love to serve; we want to be obedient, and we love the people; and we’re determined to work with the Spirit and with love. 🙂

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I really love working with Hermana Nielson. I feel comfortable asking any questions or for help, and she has an amazing love for the people here. I’m grateful for what I’ve learned from her in just this week. I’m completely lost in the sector, but I know that’s normal for the first week and that I’ll learn soon enough. The ward members are warmly receptive of the missionaries, and I can feel their love and support. (It helps when you’re given ice cream from three different members in your first day…) I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with them.

On Tuesday we had an interesting lesson. We were teaching Christian, who is returning to the church after a while, and his girlfriend, Valeria, who is super sweet and just great. I was explaining something about the Book of Mormon when all of a sudden my nose started bleeding! I ran into the bathroom and was there for a few minutes until it stopped. We all laughed about it, but I was a little embarrassed… 😛

On Saturday we helped at an open-house in Cabrera, where we gave tours of the church. It was really cool, and a LOT of people came. It was great to see so many people at least interested about learning qué tal with the Mormons, and the sisters there now have several new contacts.

We spent a lot of time contacting this week, which meant quite a bit of time in the street but less time in the houses. But we did see miracles with the progression of recent converts who have gone inactive. A very sweet sister attended church after several months of inactivity, and she was able to find answers to questions in Principles of the Gospel [in English, it’s Gospel Principles]. (That class is definitely inspired.) Yesterday we FINALLY encountered a sister we’ve been searching for all week. She’s really struggling to accept the church, and Hermana Nielson says that this whole time she’s been really closed with the missionaries, so it’s been difficult to address her concerns. But yesterday she shared several doubts that she’s had about the church and about the doctrine, and we were able to understand and address some of her concerns. I look forward to helping her regain her faith and come closer to her Heavenly Father.

I love you all! Remember who you are. Be safe, be smart, be kind, and trust in your Heavenly Father.

Ciao for now!

Hermana Saunders

Week 11: in which the hermanas fill a baptismal font with a coffee pot

Dearest family and friends,

More on the heading later. 😉

Perhaps the greatest miracle in this week was a very personal one. I was able to see the progress I’ve made and am making in the language and as a missionary. I feel more confident in the language, and Heavenly Father has given me opportunities to compare where I was al principio to where I am now. Every day I am grateful for the gift of tongues and the companionship of the Holy Ghost.

It rained pretty much all week, so I was very grateful for when I remembered to bring my umbrella and raincoat. Tuesday was intercambios, in which Hermana Bazaes swapped places with another missionary, Hermana Rico, and we worked with different companions that day. Which meant that I led the sector and led the way to lessons…I’m still struggling to remember where everything is, so that was…interesting. But it wasn’t a bad day, and Hermana Rico said I did well. I’m always grateful for the support of the other missionaries in the zone. 🙂

We had a baptism on Saturday! David Torres was baptized. It was a crazy day, but the service was great, and the confirmation on Sunday was a sweet experience. The ward has been really great with welcoming him, and there is a much brighter light in his face now. It is wonderful to see.

So, funny story about this day: the bishop, who normally fills the baptismal font, wasn’t able to because he was in the hospital with his son, who broke his wrist. So it was our job, two hermanas who had never done this before. Once we finally figured out how to plug the font, we started filling it…but the water was ice-cold. And dirty. Once we finally figured out how to get hot water, we drained what we had filled and started again with hot water…which came in a thin little stream. At this point we had two hours to fill the font. We needed FOUR. And the water was still mostly cold. So we found a coffee pot in the Relief Society closet and used it to augment the process. The hot water heater in the chapel is very localized, so we hopped between heating up the water in the coffee pot and dumping it into the font and then filling the pot again and heating it up and then…yeah. You get the picture. Added to that was the fact that we also hopped between the font and a Relief Society activity down the hall. It was nuts, but all’s well that ends well. 😛

Sunday was a day of miracles. We had seven investigators in the chapel! Enrique, who normally works during sacrament meeting, was able to take that singular hour and join his son and girlfriend, Cheril, in the chapel. Hermana Bazaes and I were so excited! We had also invited another investigator, Veronica, at the beginning of the week. Several missionaries in the past have invited her, but she always said no. But this time she came! AND she brought a friend!! I think this is what made a huge difference: in first lesson with her this week, we planned to talk about the gospel of Jesus Christ. We had talked about faith and repentance when she started talking about the problems she has with her family. Hermana Bazaes asked if we could sing a song for her, and we sang “Families Can Be Together Forever.” The Spirit was much stronger afterwards, and we spent several minutes talking about how the gospel blesses families. She accepted the invitation to come to church, and there was a new light in her face and a difference in how she listened to us. I am so grateful that my companion is so close to the Spirit.

On Sunday we also met with Olga, the older sister of Catalina and David. We had planned to meet with Carlos, a friend of theirs, but he wasn’t able to come. Olga was visiting, and she had a LOT of questions. After we talked with Catalina about her baptism, we taught the first lesson to Olga, who listened with interest and accepted another lesson. I`m so excited for this family, and I can see with each visit how the gospel is blessing their family. The mother is a great missionary and is so happy that her children are finally accepting the gospel into their lives.

Also, perhaps one of the greatest blessings of the mission is the opportunity to feast from the word of God daily. I am beginning to understand Alma’s (?) words when he said that the word “beginneth to be delicious unto me.” It truly is, and I find so much peace and joy in studying daily and then sharing what I’ve learned. I’m grateful for companionship study as well. I love the time that we have to share what we’ve learned; it’s brought us closer as companions and has strengthened my testimony. The missionary program and schedule is truly inspired, and every day I gain a greater love for the work that I have an opportunity to participate in.

I love you all!! Be safe, be kind, and be grateful. Remember who you are!

Love,
Hermana Saunders

Week 9: in which Hermana Saunders learns much

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Dearest family and friends,
We had a pretty slow week, with only a few new investigators and one or two lessons with members. This week we are fully resolved to work together, to stay busy and find families to teach. I really appreciate my companion. She is strong and happy, and she loves the gospel and this work. She has taught me much in the past few weeks.

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Yesterday was the first day I actually felt like I was doing well. People have told me that for a while, but it was hard for me to believe until yesterday. I don’t know what exactly clicked, but something did, and I believe this confidence is a gift from God. I was able to watch Conference in English on Saturday, which was an incredible blessing and a bit of a miracle. Then, on Sunday, I couldn’t watch it in English, but through the gift of understanding tongues, I followed much more than I thought possible. I’m grateful for all I’ve learned in this past week.

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I believe that last night, we had a “fourth floor, last door” (Pres Uchtdorf, Gen Women`s conference) experience. All evening we looked for people, but no one answered their door. 8:30 pm found us with no lessons and no contacts. We were knocking doors in one neighborhood, and it just didn’t feel right. Not bad, just like we were needed elsewhere. We finally moved to a different neighborhood, where we looked for a referral from a member. The referral’s daughter, Raquel, answered the door. We ended up teaching her a short, ten-minute lesson, and she agreed to meet with us later. I don’t know exactly how the next lesson will go, but I’m excited to teach her.

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Please pray that the members of our ward will feel a desire to join in the missionary work, especially in terms of visiting and home teaching. The RS president told us that the numbers are really low, and we have between 15 and 20 pages of less-active/non-active sisters. I feel like we have a responsibility to help the sisters in the ward go after these lost sheep, their sisters. And members who are of the age: PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do your visiting and home teaching! How amazing it would be if we could give every member of the church a friend. You literally hold in your hands the ability to help people find salvation. Reach out to those around you. I know that God will bless you with time and ability to fulfill this calling if you work hard. I know this is important to Him because they are His children, your brothers and sisters.

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We always ask people if we can do anything for them, and if they ask what, Hermana Bazaes says, ” Well, we could paint your house or something.” It’s kind of a joke, but this week, TWO sisters actually want help with painting their houses! We laughed pretty hard.

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The mission is full of new experiences, and one thing I never thought I would need to get used to was honks and whistles in the street. I suppose that’s the life of gringa sister in Chile. 😛 Drunk old men say interesting things.

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If you didn’t watch all of Conference, make it a priority to watch every session ASAP. It was so powerful, and I came away from it very uplifted and with so much energy. I love Conference! I wish I could take all of the energy I feel now and imbue it into the members. Again, we literally have the tools for their salvation! Take any chance you get to go with the missionaries. Do your visiting and home teaching. Share with your friends and family what you learn on Sundays and in your personal study. Share this wonderful message of hope and peace with the people around, and live the gospel every day.

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I love you all! Be safe and be kind, and remember who you are!

Love,
Hermana Saunders

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