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.

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


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 57: in which things get shaken up a little bit

Dear friends and family,

It’s never a good thing when the mission president calls and asks to talk to both you and your companion. President May called us on Saturday morning to send Hermana Scholl to Temuco; a sister in that area had to go home for health reasons, and Hermana Scholl was sent to replace her. She left early this morning, and we definitely miss her a lot. I’m staying here in Arauco in a trio with Hermana Cuevas from Colombia and Hermana Lopez from Honduras. We’re basically combining the two sectors for the next three weeks until the next cambio. It’ll be an adventure. 😬  I was very sad to see Hermana Scholl go, but I trust in the inspiration of my leaders, and I know that we’ll be okay. There are two constants that I can always count on: my Heavenly Father and the Savior’s Atonement. It’s hard to say “Thy will be done,” but I know that God has wisdom in all things. The rest of this cambio will be a growing experience for the four of us, and I’m trying to keep that in mind as we face this next week. I’m grateful for every opportunity to grow, although it comes as a surprise and a challenge. I’m also very grateful that Hermana Scholl is not headed home and that there’s always the possibility of being in the same zone or at the very least seeing each other at Christmas. I’m grateful for all that I’ve learned with her, and I look forward to learning even more with Hermanas Cuevas and Lopez.

All of Chile is getting excited for September 18, the celebration of the independence of Chile. All of the shops are selling every kind of things with the Chilean colors, and the branch is gearing up for one heck of a party. We’re all excited. 😀

This week I studied Ephesians 4 in the Bible, which is an absolutely fantastic chapter. The chapter contains all kinds of admonitions from the apostle Paul, and I love it because it’s applicable to every kind of person. I highlighted much of that chapter, and I came away with a lot to think about. I invite you to read it this week, and let me know what you thought!

On Tuesday we took Jorge and Valentina on a tour of the church. It was truly a special experience. There was such a peaceful feeling in the chapel, and they said that they weren’t worried anymore about going to church–on the contrary, Jorge was really excited for Sunday to come. They said that they felt that this was really where God wanted them to be. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to share with them. They’re reading together in the Book of Mormon and praying. They both accepted fecha [Note: I think this is a baptismal date. –AnnMarie], and I’m excited to teach them more. Hermana Lopez, who found them with me during a zone finding activity, is also really excited to be able to teach them, so I’m glad she’ll have that chance.

Another miracle occurred on Saturday. As we headed to look for another investigator, an old lady standing at her gate called to us as we passed. She told us that her husband was inside with a hemorrhage, and she, basically invalid herself, wasn’t able to make her way to the hospital across the street nor had a telephone to call an ambulance. We raced across the street to bring a medic over, who took care of the situation. We haven’t heard more of that family yet, but we’re going to pass by later. I’m grateful that God put us in the path of His children who need our help. We had thought about heading to a different place to contact, but now I understand why we felt better about visiting that investigator (who actually couldn’t meet with us that day).

Thank you all for your love, support, and prayers. I’ll especially appreciate them this week as we make this transition. It’ll be interesting but not impossible. 😀 I hope you all have a great week! Remember who you are! Be safe, be smart, be kind.

Love from Chile,
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 55: in which absolutely nothing goes as planned

But hey, that’s the mission! 😀

Dear family and friends,

It’s been a good week. A lot of our plans fell through, but each day was an opportunity to laugh a lot together and look for the miracles in every day. It rained a lot this week, but we also saw some pretty incredible rainbows. 😀 I love rainbows because they’re a symbol of God’s promises. I love the scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants that says, “Who am I, saith the Lord, to promise and not fulfill?” [Note: She’s talking about D&C 58:31, which says, “Who am I, saith the Lord, that have promised and have not fulfilled?” –AnnMarie] I know that whenever we do our part, God will always always always fulfill His part. We are literally His children, and He has so many blessings in store for us.

On Sunday we had a pretty sweet miracle. All week this week we searched and prayed for a family, but by Sunday night, only one person (who is really great :D) had wanted to see us again. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, everything besides English classes fell through, and no one had gone to church on Sunday in Arauco. As we contacted a street on Sunday night, we found some promising futures, but no one had let us in. At the very end of the night, we contacted a house, and a little boy answered the door. We asked if we could talk with his mom, and he went to get her. When she came to the door, she enthusiastically let us in, and we had a great lesson with her and her 10-year-old (and very intelligent) son, Abraham. I asked them what they would like to ask God in an interview, and he replied, “What’s the meaning of life?” Well. We talked about how we can find the answers to such questions thanks to the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They’re a family of 5 (the husband was working so we didn’t meet him then). The mom, Victoria, and Abraham committed to going to church on Sunday, and Victoria is going with us to an activity on Saturday. They’re excited to learn more, and we have another cita with them this next week. We felt very much like we had our own fourth floor, last door moment, and we’re very grateful for this wonderful miracle.

It’s a short one this week, but know that I love being here as a missionary in Chile. It’s a privilege to be a part of the Lord`s work and serving His children. He knows what they need and where they are, and He can help me find and help them. He knows who you are, and He loves you very much.

I hope you all have a great week! Be safe, be kind, be smart, be helpful. And always remember who you are!!

Love from Chile,
Hermana Saunders

Week 52: in which I have a week of miracles


Dear family and friends,

It’s been another good week of challenges, learning, and growth. At a conference for trainers and trainees on Wednesday, Elder Sanchez from the office challenged me to write down seven miracles from this week and share them with you, so here they are:

1. As we contacted on Wednesday, we passed a house just as a woman was entering. I felt a subtle prompting to talk with her, so just as she closed the door, we called, “halo!” She let us in, and we talked with her and her mom. Her mom doesn’t live with her and didn’t accept another appointment, but she, Paola, is really great. We’re excited to teach this family. 😊
2. With half an hour left at the end of Thursday, we hadn’t found anyone nor had a lesson. Our back-up plans had fallen, as had our back-up back-up plans, so we prayed to know what to do. My companion thought of a lady who was in our list of investigators, but for the past three weeks, we haven’t had any idea who she was. We didn’t have a number, last name, or address, so we had basically given up trying to find her. This day, Hermana Scholl remembered that she had taught her during the first week of her training, and she was able to guide us to this lady, a very tired, faithful single mother of two. We had a great lesson with her and left grateful that God had shown us once again that He knows where His children are.
3. During weekly planning on Thursday, we called Carlos, an investigator we haven’t been able to see for a while. When I asked about his weekend, he said he’d gone to church while he was out of town! And he really enjoyed it! 😀
4. I had to fix some things with my Chilean ID card on Friday. It was a day when we were very short on proselyting time, so I worried that it would take forever in the PDI and the registro civil, but we finished everything in record time, and I even received help finding my wallet! (I haven’t found it yet, but now I know what I can do. :D)
5. Once again, we almost passed a house as we contacted on Saturday, but again I felt a very subtle impression to knock on the door. We found Karen and Horacio, siblings who are searching for the truth and are willing to do what it takes to find it. I felt the Spirit as we gave a brief introduction to the Restoration, and we left them with the commitment to read the first pamphlet.
6. On Sunday, two of our investigators came to church!! I was so happy to see them, in part because we haven`t been able to see them all week.
7. Also on Sunday, we had a lesson with Paola (from Wed), and her husband, Claudio, was there! He asked a lot of questions and shared that he also wanted to know how to know the truth for himself. I’m beginning to really like this couple, and they have a lot of great questions.

And a tender mercy: This week I’ve had cinnamon rolls, brigadero, and no-bake cookies in the two training meetings we’ve had this week. I haven’t had cinnamon rolls in more than a year, and they tasted SOO good. 😊😊  I love the desserts here, but not much can beat a really good, homemade cinnamon roll.

Hermana Scholl and I have had fun this week finding new ways to laugh and to contact. She still laughs at my bad jokes, so I guess she hasn’t gotten too tired of me yet. 😉 I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with her and for her example of patience.

I hope you all have a great week! Remember who you are!! And take the time to write down the little miracles in each day. I promise it will make your life a little bit happier as you realize God’s hand in your life.

Besitos y abrazos de Chile!

Hermana Saunders

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


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. 😊


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. 😛


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