Week 32: in which the rain rain rain comes down down down

Dear family and friends,

On Wednesday we had a gran intercambio whitewash, in which the companionships were all mixed up and sent to different sectors in the zone. It was kinda cool, but it rained. All. Day. Makes one very grateful for a good coat. 😛

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It’s been a good week. I enjoy working with Hermana Lange: she’s the definition of a consecrated missionary and a great example to me. She’s strong in many areas in which I am weak, and vice versa, and we’re both learning to be more patient with the weaknesses of the other. We had several lessons this week that were incredible because we were united in our teaching and because we practiced. We had the incredible opportunity to meet Nikolas, his mom Veronica, and Gabriel and his pareja Lorena. They are simply incredible people and the perfect example of how God prepares the hearts of the people. Gabriel’s eyes grew wide when we told him that there’s a living prophet, and on Sunday he LOVED the Gospel Principles class, in which we talked about prophets. In our first lesson with him and his girlfriend, he told us that we had already given him answers to all of his doubts. And Nikolas and Veronica have been looking for this message for a long time. The Spirit was so strong in both lessons as we testified that God has once again revealed His perfect gospel to bless His children. Veronica and Nikolas weren’t able to go to church this week, but they’re committed to go as a family this next week. I love the opportunity to be a part of their conversion. It’s truly beautiful. And we found 12 new people to teach this week! Three cheers for the guidance of our Heavenly Father!!

Veronica and Nikolas are also evidence that we shouldn’t give up on people. It took several weeks before we could finally get an appointment with Veronica; I met her for a couple minutes with Hermana Nielson, but since then we weren’t able to actually get ahold of her. But we kept passing by, and I’m so glad we did because now they have the opportunity to hear and accept this marvelous message.

This week I saw the promise fulfilled that our mouths will be filled as we open them as well as the essentialness of the Spirit. Before, I thought that I would know what to say BEFORE I opened my mouth, but I realized that I will be given the words AS I open my mouth. In the lessons with Gabriel and Veronica, it was an incredible feeling to know exactly what to say and to have this incredible synergy with my companion. I didn’t worry about what to say before, I just talked, and the words came to me. It was so cool!

In my personal studies, I studied about how to become a better teacher. I thought about all of the great teachers I’ve had in church, and I realized that despite different teaching methods, they all did one important thing: they created an environment of learning that invited the Spirit to teach. I’m trying to implement that more in my teaching and be more conscious of what Elder Packer called the “manners of the Spirit.” I know that as I do that, my investigators will be taught more personally and receive their own testimonies.

I’d like to leave you all with a quote from President Hinkley: “You can’t, you don’t build out of pessimism or cynicism. You look with optimism, work with faith, and things will happen.” I love that. Pessimism just gives me a headache and makes me depressed, which is exactly what Satan wants. Guys, God is real. He is mindful of every single one of your challenges, and He’s helping you through them. If you’re facing a wall that seems insurmountable, ask for His help, and then “look with optimism” and “work with faith.” I promise that you will find the tools and strength necessary to overcome every challenge. You CAN do it!! I testify of the great power of the Atonement when we accept it.

Be grateful, be smart, be clean, be true, be humble, be faithful. God’s on your side.

I love you all!

Hermana Saunders

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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!! 😀 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. 😀

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. 😀

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. 😀 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. 😬

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 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 26: in which Hermana Saunders goes back to Primary

Dearest friends and family,

Whew! One more week, and I’ll complete SIX MONTHS in the mission! I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone, and I look forward to a full year in the work of the Lord.

This week I studied a lot about humility and its role in the work. I realized that while the Lord promises so many blessings to the obedient, we don’t receive the same blessings if we aren’t being humble as well. We cannot work with the Spirit if we’re not humble and willing to do what the Lord wants. This is HIS work, and He’s just shaping me to be an extension of His hands. (My brother once counseled me that “A tool in the hands of a Master is not a better tool but an extension of the Master Himself.” It’s always stuck with me.) Humility is also important because pride destroys companionships; it causes contention because pride never says “I’m sorry” or “Will you help me?” I’ve seen both sides in my companionships, and I’m grateful for the help that my Father has given as I’ve sought to improve in this area.

We’ve seen several small miracles this week. We had quite an adventure on Thursday as we looked for a certain store downtown, but Heavenly Father really helped us. A member happened to be in the same area when we really needed help to carry water for our emergency store back to our apartment. Before that, we also encountered the friend of Christian, an RM who went inactive but is re-activating, and the friend said sure, we could pass by later. Also, we contacted a former contact of Hermana Nielson who is now much more open to learning about the restored gospel. And we had some really great contacts that we’re looking forward to teaching. Most of these miracles came in the middle of some interesting mishaps during the day, but it was a testimony to me that God can make miracles out of anything and that He can put us where He needs us.

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We started teaching English classes on Saturday, and I’m looking forward to using this opportunity to bring more people to the church building; at least they´ll become more familiar with the building and realize that the Mormons are actually really normal people. 😉 I’m also excited for this opportunity to teach: I’ve realized that I really love teaching –tutoring, really — and I love working with people. This will be fun. 😀

Sunday was an interesting day. Francisca is a 9-year-old that we’re kind of “sharing” with the elders because half of the time, Fran is at her abuela’s house in the elders’ sector. She hasn’t wanted to come to our (her) ward because she doesn’t have any friends yet, but she came this Sunday because she could invite her cousin, who’s a member of the ward that shares our building. Í’ve forgotten what it’s like to have a slightly hyper-active 9-year-old in sacrament meeting…but she actually did pretty well, and even said the prayer when she was called on in Sunday school. (She’s been assisting in her cousin’s ward, and her dad is an inactive member, so she’s familiar with the church.) She wanted us to come to the class with her, so Hermana Nielson and I fit ourselves into slightly too-small desks with 9-11 year-olds and listened as the teacher taught about Joseph Smith and the gold plates. It was actually a really great class. 🙂

Also, PLOT TWIST! On Wednesday, we had a missionary broadcast in which the church missionary board announced some major changes to the daily schedule, to Preach My Gospel (our handbook of sorts of what we teach), and to the information we report each week. We’re really excited about these changes because we’ll be able to adapt the schedule more appropriately to the needs of our area, and we’ll have more practice creating and maintaining our own schedule instead of following a strict schedule for 18 months-2 years. Also, we’ll have two more hours of P-Day!! 😀

I love you all, and I hope you have a great week! Remember that God loves you very much and wants the best for you. He wants to hear from you, and He always always always will answer your prayers.

Be safe. Be smart. Be kind. God be with you all!

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 24: in which the Hermanas say “No mas pan!”

Dearest friends and family,

It is impossible to avoid eating something that is served with every. single. meal. as a missionary. Both Hermana Chavez and I tried really hard this week to avoid the delicious white bread that is sold on every corner and eaten with every lunch. It just doesn’t work in Chile… But I’d really like to do something about the 20 pounds of “blessings” I’ve gained in the past 4 months… 😛

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Transfers!! Tomorrow I’ll move to Los Angeles. Whoo, packing… My new comp will be Hermana Nielson, who finished training Hermana Chavez! I’m a little nervous, but I know that transfers are inspired, and I look forward to getting to know a little more of the mission. The downside is that Los Angeles is HOT. I’m going to melt just a little bit…

We did a lot of contacting again this week, which meant a lot of time in the streets. The weather here is so weird. Honestly, if you don’t like the weather, just wait an hour. 😛 It’s almost always chilly in the mornings, but it could be anything in the afternoon. Anyway, the lessons we did have were pretty great. We met with Ricardo, whom we started teaching when I was with Hermana Bazaes. We’re reading the Book of Mormon with him, and it’s really cool to see his understanding expanding as he looks for answers to his own questions. The last time we read, Hermana Chavez made a comment about a verse, and he said, “Yeah, I really like that one too! I even marked it.” It was something really small, but it’s so cool to see how he’s beginning to “liken the scriptures” to himself and make positive changes in his life.

This e-mail is super short, but know that I love you all so very much. Trust in the Lord and have patience with His timing. He really does know when and how things need to happen, and He “loves to bless and teach you.” Remember who you are! Be safe, be smart, be kind.

Lots of love,
Hermana Saunders