Week 74: in which another year’s over, and a new one’s just begun

Dear friends and family,

Happy New Year!! Woo! I hope everyone had a safe and fun holiday. 😀 We spent a couple hours on New Year’s Eve with Hermana Ines, one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met. She taught us how to make sopaipillas, which is basically Mexican fry bread and is delicious. 😄  We basically stuffed ourselves silly as Hermana Ines shared stories about her family and experiences. I have learned a lot from her, and her example of perseverance and love for the gospel is inspiring.

We’ve had a lot of fun this week as we’ve worked harder to have lessons in which members accompany us. We had a fantastic lesson about the Book of Mormon with the Vilches family and Yuri and Manuel, a couple from Colombia that is working for them and are just incredible. 😀 They are so receptive, and we felt the testimony of the Spirit as we listened to President Monson’s testimony of the Book of Mormon. We talked about the guide and comfort that we can find through daily study of the Book of Mormon, and I know that it will change their lives. 😀 I know that it is truly God’s word and that it can change lives and hearts as we apply its teachings. For those of you who haven’t read it from cover to cover yet, read it. Study it. And then ask God if it’s true. You don’t have to be a scriptorian to receive a witness from your Father that it truly is His word and that it is for you.

One of the members also helped us out a lot with Barbara, who we met in the bus terminal last week. She’s really cool and a lot of fun; she said that the next time we went, she would have Mango Sour to share with us. I, not knowing what the heck that was–and thinking it was some kind of juice–said of course. 😀 And then Scarlett, the member who was with us, explained that mango sour is pisco–alcohol. 😬  So we politely declined. So that was a fun…Thank goodness for members who speak Chileno! 😆

One of the miracles this week was finding several family members of Javiera, a girl we’re teaching who is very excited to learn. Every time we’ve passed by to teach her and her mom, Tila, the rest of the family has always stopped to listen for at least part of the lesson, but they’ve always left before we could really talk to them. But on Friday, when we visited them with a couple from the branch, they all stayed until the end, and they agreed to another visit! The kids are much more excited than their parents and really wanted to go to church, but they weren’t able to make it. But they said that they enjoy listening to us because it’s easy to learn with us; they learn more and can understand things better. I know that in part it’s the work of the Spirit, and I’m so excited to teach them about the Restoration.

As you think about your new year’s resolutions for this year, I’d like to invite you all to remember the Savior and His atonement. You see, it’s not just for sins and sorrows but also for whatever changes we want to make to become more like Him. When you’re frustrated or feel like you just won’t make it, remember the enabling power of His atonement, that you are a child of God, and that change is truly possible. I love you all, and I pray that this year may be full of miracles and good changes.

Lots of love from Chile,
Hermana Saunders

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Week 68: in which we have a great week

Dear family and friends,
Hermana Milne and I are having a great time here in Cunco. It’s a beautiful city and so full of potential. 😁😄

One of my favorite parts of the mission is working with the members. This week 3 out of 5 of our “news” were from part-member families (PF) or referrals from members. We’re teaching Milleray, who is the daughter of very faithful members, and is very excited to prepare herself for baptism. She’s so cute!! 😊😊 On Monday we had family home evening with a PF: Hermana Ivone is living with Hermano Claudio and has been investigating the church for about a year and goes to church every week. They invited a lonely sister from the branch as well as their less-active and non-member teenage sons and their friend. The boys have a lot of questions and don’t act like they’re “too cool” for “church stuff,” but at the same time it’s definitely been interesting teaching teenagers again. We pray every day for teaching ideas and ways to reach their hearts, and we’ve been able to find answers in meetings and studies, which have been blessings. It’s still a challenge, but they have the full support and love of Claudio and Ivone.

That same Monday we set another cita for Saturday, where we met Pablo, another friend of the family. He’s a kid who’s seen a lot and is just not sure what to believe; he told us that he’s pretty much set on not believing in anything. He listened and asked questions in the cita, but he said he wasn’t interested in listening to us again. Imagine our surprise and happiness when he came to church with the family on Sunday! He and Matias, Ivone’s son, participated in Gospel Principles, and I’m sure he went home with a lot to think about. I hope he will take the chance to keep participating in church and in the lessons with us because I know it’ll help him a lot in his life.

On Friday we had an absolutely spectacular attack in Temuco. (An attack is an activity in which a bunch of missionaries work in the same area to find new people to teach.) We set up a series of activities that took about 10 minutes to complete and talked about the Book of Mormon and the Restoration. We set up in front of the college and talked to everyone who passed. We kept busy for about 3 hours and ended the activity with about 90 references for all over southern Chile. It was so much fun and an incredible experience to see so many people passando and taking interest in the gospel. I know it will result in many miracles, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to be part of it. 😁😊

We started teaching English classes on Tuesday and Thursday here in Cunco and Wednesday in Melipeuco (another pueblito close by). We started on Thursday, and we had fun talking about the billions of sounds in the English language. 😛 Sometimes I honestly feel sorry for those who learn English; the pronunciation is so dang complicated. But Spanish is just spelled like it sounds, which has been great. 😀

If you’ll please pray hard for our investigator Scarlett. She has 22 años [in other words, she’s 22 years old. — AnnMarie] and is so close to taking the step of baptism but she’s afraid of what others may say and also that it won’t make any difference in her life. She is just so good; she loves the Book of Mormon and has learned so much in a short time. She says that she’s pretty sure she knows what the answer is, but she’s unsure of herself. It’s been helpful to visit her with members; the other day we went with a couple youth, Scarlett and Jessy, who really reached out to her. I know that she’ll eventually be able to overcome this fear that is keeping her from making the best decision of her life.

This week I finished the Book of Mormon for the second [time]. It was a wonderful experience, and I learned a lot about myself and my Savior. As I read, I felt once again the quiet reassurance that it really is the word of God and that the stories in it really happened. If you haven’t studied the Book of Mormon, please read it and pay attention to what happens. I promise it will change your life for the best if you let it. I know it’s changed mine.

I love you all!! Be safe, be kind, be faithful. And remember who you are!

Love from Chile,
Hermana Saunders

Week 60: in which we say a lot of goodbyes

Dear friends and family,

It’s amazing how you can know absolutely nothing about someone and then at the end of 3 weeks together 24/7, you’re good friends. Hermana Lopez and I were both very sad to say goodbye to Hermana Cuevas on Sunday; she ended her mission and is headed home. Tomorrow I’ll send Hermana Lopez off to Los Àngeles; President May called us on Friday night to tell her that–surprise!–she’ll be training a new missionary this transfer! So it’ll be just me and my companion-to-be, Hermana Cabezas, here in Arauco. I’m going to miss those two a lot; they’ve taught me a lot, and they helped me grow this transfer. I love them and am so grateful for the opportunity to serve with them.
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Wednesday night we met with our new ward mission leader, Hermano Temer, who is just an incredible human being. He’s excited to be WML, and he has a ton of energy for the missionary work. I’m excited to work with him. We also had a lesson with Rayen, who’s preparing to be baptized on Oct 7th. She’s really excited and is just so ready to learn. Her family is coming back to church little by little; her mom is really incredible and so funny and is absolutely determined to do things right again. We’ve met with the family several times this week, and repentance has been a special topic for all of them. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to help this family make changes and progress together towards eternal life. They really have a special place in my heart. 😊😊

On Friday no one was able to make it to English classes, so we helped the youth clean the chapel, which was fun. 😀 The leaders brought completos for everyone who helped, so we enjoyed those as well as got to know the youth a little better.

There’s this absolutely incredible exhibit in town that’s a tribute to Violeta Parra, an extremely influential folk singer from Chile. A group of women created tapestries of different styles that depicted different stages of the life of Violet. A couple of the women were there when we passed by and gave us a short over-view of who Violet was and her influence in both Chile and in Europe. Her life was powerful and tragic. I suggest you look her up; her music and embroidery are pretty cool. 😀

We spent a lot of Saturday and Sunday visiting people so that my companions could say goodbye. Surprisingly there were very few tears but lots of sadness. It’s hard to say goodbye to a place and people with whom you’ve fallen in love. Arauco will miss those two.

Miracles on Sunday! Alenjandra, the older sister of Rayen, came to stake conference with us! At first she said that she would only drive us there, but she stayed for the whole thing! And then later that night we were able to meet with three new people: the son of an investigator and two of his friends. It was cool to see how God can touch the hearts of people in more ways than one, and I love the opportunity I have to help them get to know their loving Heavenly Father better.

Know that I love you all! Let me know what were your favorite points from General Conference in this next week! Be sure to catch all four sessions!

Lots of love,
Hermana Saunders

Week 58: in which I can’t think of a clever title

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Dear friends and family,

IMPORTANT: This weekend is the patriotic holiday of Chile, so everything will be closed. That means that instead of writing on Monday, I’ll write the following Wednesday, Sept 20. This has been a public service announcement from yours truly.

It’s been an interesting change, being in a trio. The dynamics in a lesson are different, but one of the miracles of this week is that we actually teach pretty well together. 😀 Often in trios, one or two of the companions talk a lot and the third doesn’t say much, but it hasn’t happened very often with us. I’m grateful for what I’ve learned from Hermana Lopez and Hermana Cuevas; they’ve helped me find a new way to study, and as I applied it, I’ve found that my studies are more focused on my investigators, and I am able to find more specific answers. It’s been a blessing. It’s been fun to be with just Latinas because we can help each other with our respective languages. I can ask them about anything during the day and vice versa, and yesterday Hermana Cuevas and I read the Bible together, she in English and I in Spanish. I’m grateful for that opportunity. I offered to talk with them mostly in English in the house, but that’s proven more difficult than talking in Spanish 24/7!

On Tuesday the training hermanas, Hermana da Silva and Hermana Chavez, came to work with me in my sector. It rained all day and all of our plans fell through, but we laughed a lot and invented a song about contacting. I’m very grateful for these sisters, who have shown an enormous amount of love and dedication in the work of the Lord. We are definitely blessed to have them in the zone.

Some of my favorite miracles from this week:

1. Our weekly planning session, even with the two sectors, was effective and timely. The hermana caps [Note: I think she means the training hermanas? — AnnMarie] were also able to give us some great advice for how to improve, and we came up with a few new ideas for finding.

2. We found a family that’s excited to see the missionaries again after a few years. The mom really wants to know if the church is true; she says that the church has always called her attention, although she’s not sure why. I’m excited to teach them.

3. Sunday in church was just really great. One speaker talked about the young rich man’s question, “What lack I yet?” It’s a question I want to always keep in mind, especially when I think I’ve done enough or am tempted to judge others. I love the guidance and enlightenment we can find from the scriptures.

On Sunday we spent a couple hours helping a less-active family that’s coming back to church. They have a wool business and needed help spooling (is that a word?) their wool yarn. It was cool because the sister showed us how the wool is carded, washed, dyed, spun, and then spooled to sell in the market. We had a lot of fun with the family, and one of the sisters thought I was a native speaker! 😀 That made me happy.

On Saturday we had an open house in the church in Coronel. That was a lot of fun, and I got to work with Sister Jensen, the sister in charge of the legal stuff in the office. She’s just barely learning Spanish, so she didn’t say much, but her love for these people showed in the way she hugged them or shook their hands. It was also just a wonderful experience to testify over and over again of the love and mission of our Savior Jesus Christ. I love open houses!

The work of the Lord continues here in Chile, with miracles in every day. I’m so grateful for this opportunity to help others to “come unto Christ and be perfected in Him.” I’m far from perfect, but I know that God can use the most imperfect and honest effort for the good of His children. He loves and knows each one of His children perfectly and personally, and He’ll always stretch out His hands to those who will take hold.

I hope you all have a wonderful week! Be safe, be kind. and be smart. As my dad once told us, “Live so that you have widely varied memories but no regrets.”

Love from the bottom-half of the world,

Hermana Saunders

Week 56: in which members pop out of the woodwork

Dear family and friends,

The interesting thing about working in Arauco is that almost every single family has a least one member of the church in it, be that a parent, sibling, or cousin. Sometimes it’s almost impossible to distinguish the investigators from the inactive members. One of the people we met this week is married to a lady who was baptized with her parents when she was young but is now Evangelist (is that what it is in English? I really don’t know…).

Hermana Scholl and I are working hard this cambio to work better with the members. It’s been an interesting but rewarding endeavor. Turns out one of our news from this week was the elementary gym teacher of a member, and other members have hit it off really well with other investigators. We also started a missionary BINGO this week: Those who wanted to participate received a 3×3 bingo card with 9 different ways to participate in the missionary work, and the first to fill in their card wins brownies from us. It was received with a rather lukewarm reaction, but we’re hoping for great results as the members realize that there is so much they can do to share the gospel. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with them and reach out to them. I’m learning more and more how essential the members are, and I’m so grateful for those who are self-motivated to share in the work.

More Sunday miracles this week: We found a new investigator, Ivan, who’s met with missionaries many times before but mostly just to listen. We had a fantastic lesson with him, and he accepted a baptismal date! He’s committed to go to church, to read, and to pray about the message. He’s very receptive and reminds a lot of Juan Macaya, an investigator who just got baptized in Villa Obispo, my former sector. We also were able to meet up with Valentina for the first time in a while, and she’s been reading in the Book of Mormon! Little bits at a time, but she is reading. The last time we met she had a big problem with Moroni’s visits to Joseph Smith, but she said that as she’s read and understood more about the story, she feels her doubts subsiding. She also accepted a baptismal date for the end of September, and we’re going to do a tour of the church with her and her boyfriend, Jorge. They both just really want to learn and do the right thing, and I’ve really come to love them. And then at night, we had a great lesson with Victoria and her son Abraham, our miracles from last Sunday. They’re so ready to learn, and they just soak up things like a sponge. They weren’t able to go to church this past weekend, but they’re going to do what’s possible to assist [Note: I think she means “attend”? –AnnMarie] next week. Victoria’s husband, Nelson, is a little less excited about our visits; he seems to be a little wary of Mormons, but we’ll win him over, and he’ll see we’re not so scary. 😉

Just about every single cita fell through this week, but we’ve had fun together. We laugh a lot together, and it’s been cool to see how our Spanish has improved in just a couple weeks of talking Spanish 24/7. I’m learning a lot about communication and service, and it’s a great experience. I’m grateful for each day that I have to improve, and I’m grateful to look back and see that I’m not the same Hermana Saunders that started the mission a year ago. The Atonement is real, my friends.

I’m blessed to know each and every one of you. I hope you always remember how much your Heavenly Father loves you. Have a great week!

Love from Chile,
Hermana Saunders

Week 51: in which we go to the end of the world

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Dear family and friends,

Or maybe just the end of Arauco, but it was still cool. 😀 We went to the beach today. The weather was gorgeous and perfect for photos, which was a lot of fun. My batteries are dead, so hopefully I’ll be able to send the pics the hermanas took when they’re done writing. I love the opportunity to spend time in beautiful places and think that God created all of this for us. 😊

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On Thursday we tried something new: we set up a table in the plaza with pamphlets, cookies, and hot chocolate and invited people to take one of each. 😀 A few people did stop and talk to us, and we were able to take down a few names and numbers to pass by later.  😀

On Friday we went to Concepciòn for a conference with two other zones. It was great because I got to see Hermana Clark, my CCM companion, and Hermana Bazaes, my first companion in the field. 😀 Hermana Clark is training as well, and Hermana Bazaes is a training hermana…it’s crazy how time flies. Also, turns out the senior couple in the office knew Grandpa Saunders from USU! Small world. Elder Willey and Elder Sandoval (elders from the office) talked about setting realistic and helpful goals, and their presentation was honestly an answer to my prayers. I’m trying to be better about making a plan to reach my goal; I often miss the planning part of the process, which is like trying to get to the other side of the canyon without building the bridge. 😛

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On Saturday I had the opportunity to return, in a way, to my training and to remember all of the feelings I had at the beginning of my mission. We did a “mini-mission” with members of the Camilo branch (which is an hour and a half bus ride from Arauco). My comp for the day was Pricilla, who is my age and a convert of 7 years. She was so excited for this opportunity to spend the day as a missionary. She doesn’t know yet if she’ll serve a mission, but I know that if she does, she’ll be fantastic. We had fun and saw miracles when the SECOND door we knocked opened, and we found a couple who want to know more. It was a wonderful experience and helped me realize even more the power of a member’s testimony in the lesson. And not even the rain could dampen our spirits. 😀

During our district meeting on Tuesday, I had a bit of personal revelation that I wanted to share: We were talking about our weaknesses, and I was thinking about how frustrating mine were sometimes. A thought came to my mind: our weaknesses do not make us unworthy of God’s help; He’s given them to us so that we’ll draw closer to Him. Sometimes it’s hard to look back on a day or a week and think, “Dang it! I messed up again and again. How can I keep asking God to help me with the same problem if I never (as far as we can see) improve?” But I think that, in some ways, that’s the point. We realize that God is the only one who can help us completely overcome our weaknesses. If we were great at everything, we’d never need to rely on God! I don’t know if that means I’ll always be spacey or bad at time-management, but I know that it does mean that I can always rely on my Father to help me and to forgive me when I mess up.

That’s all for this week! I hope you all a great week! Remember who you are!

Love from Chile,
Hermana Saunders

Week 42: in which we lose some and win some

Dear friends and family,
Whew! What a week! I don’t know that a “slow week” exists in the mission.

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This week we dropped an investigator who told us that truth doesn’t exist and that we were basically a cult. But his sister wants to listen, so that was exciting! 😀

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On Monday we had a lesson with Lesli, one of our investigators who is friends with a young woman from our ward. We talked about the Book of Mormon and how it was written for us. We read 1 Nephi 2:16 with her, substituting “Lesli” for “Nefi,” and she really felt like the verse was talking about her. She was able to identify with Nephi, who was also searching to know the truth of all things, and the Spirit was able to testify to her that just like God answered Nephi, He will answer her. I love the Book of Mormon! And I’ve seen the difference in the lessons when we share at least one verse from it in every lesson. There is real power in the book. If you haven’t read it yet, READ IT! And don’t just read the words; put your name in place of the names in the chapters, underline parts that call your attention, think about how it applies to your life. I promise that as you do so, you will find a greater relationship to your Heavenly Father as well as other treasures that money cannot buy.

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On Tuesday I taught the lesson in district meeting, which was fun. I enjoy teaching because as I prepare the lesson, I learn so much more than I do just listening to it. While we were knocking on Tuesday, a man poked his head out and yelled, “I’ve seen you before!” I was rather taken aback as I had never seen this man before in my life. He continued, “You were in hell! Ciao.” Just before he popped back inside, Hermana Lange laughingly responded, “You were there?” It made our day. XD

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On Friday Hermana Lange had her last interview with President before the hermanas’ service activity that morning. That night we had a FANTASTIC lesson about the restoration with the girlfriend of an inactive member. It was the first time that I have almost cried recounting Joseph Smith’s experience, and I felt so strongly the truth of that experience. What a wonderful thing to know that the Heavens are still open and that God still reveals His truths to His children. It was also cool because the member who went with us, Hermana Carmen Julia, is an incredible teacher and very loving. She bore a powerful testimony and offered to help the investigator, whose kids are sick. It was a great experience. 🙂

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On Saturday we had another open house in another ward’s chapel, which was a lot of fun. I love open houses because it’s an opportunity to bear testimony about truths that are so dear to me.

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Sunday was an emotional day. It was Hermana Lange’s last day in Villa Obispo. After church we dropped by a couple houses of members so that Hermana Lange could say goodbye before President came to pick her up. She left for Concepción that afternoon, and now I’m in a trio until my new companion comes on Tuesday. I was sad to see Hermana Lange go; she’s an incredible missionary and a great companion and friend. I’ll miss her here, and I know that so will many other members and investigators here in Chile.

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I wish I could talk about EVERYTHING that happened this week, but time does not allow, so that’s all for this week! Know that I love you all very much, and I hope that all is well! Remember who you are and WHOSE you are!

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Love from Chile,
Hermana Saunders