Week 43: in which my sister comes to town

Dear family and friends,

I’m working with my sister now! Hermana Cust贸dio 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! 馃榾 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 馃榾 (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 Cust贸dio and I have decided that our motto for this cambio is “隆A la batalla con la fuerza del Se帽or!”聽(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 Jos茅 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 Jos茅 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. 馃榾

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

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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! 馃榾

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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. 馃檪

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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 Concepci贸n 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… 馃槵 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. 馃榿)

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!” 馃槃馃槃 聽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! 馃槢

Week 40: in which the Hermanas get shot

Dear family and friends,

*ahem* SHOTS. Sorry, forgot the last “s” in the title. 馃槤 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. 馃槃

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

WOOO-OOH! LIVIN麓 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. 馃榾

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. 馃榾 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. 馃榾 Lots of fun puddles to jump in. 馃槈 (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. 馃檪

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. 馃槃

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 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. 馃榾 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. 馃樋 聽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