Week 70: in which we’re all together again

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Dear friends and family,

This week we had the mission Christmas devotional, in which all 170-something missionaries and our leaders met together in Los Γ€ngeles (I got to see my old sector!!!) and enjoyed a few uplifting hours together. We did a “flash choir” in the central plaza, which was cool; we entered from the four corners of the plaza singing Christmas hymns and then went about contacting the people who passed by. Several of the members of Villa Obispo were in the plaza at that time, so I had the wonderful opportunity to see them again. 😊😊  It was also wonderful to see several friends from the mission. I get to work with such great people, de verdad. ❀

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Yesterday we again saw the miracle of working with members. Scarlett has been rather hesitant to go full-steam-ahead with her baptism for the 16th; she accepted that date as a goal and is keeping her commitments, but she still feels insecure about baptism. We had a lesson with her and Hermana Maria Gutierrez, who was baptized two years ago. She shared her conversion story and the doubts and questions she had and how she overcame them, and Scarlett said that it was exactly how she feels. Maria passed through much of the same experiences in her journey that Scarlett has, and it was wonderful to see that connection and to see a few lightbulbs go off for Scarlett. Now she’s more sure of her choice to be baptized, and she says that she’s so much happier as she’s listened to the missionaries and applied the teachings of the gospel in her life. I love her so much! πŸ˜„

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In the lesson with Scarlett, she said something I found very profound: In regards to doing something scary or very different, she said, “You don’t leave the comfort zone; it expands as you take steps forward.” We can apply that to whatever part of life. The great thing about life is that it’s flexible; although at first change is hard, it becomes easier because God gives us more strength to keep moving forward. I loved that thought.

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On Friday, it was our turn for a zone “attack”! πŸ˜€ We met together in the plaza in Cunco and did the same activity as before. In two hours, we received 52 references!! πŸ˜€ Hermana Milne and I are so excited and working hard to contact each one of them, and I can feel that there are many miracles waiting for us in the lists of names.

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I love being a missionary. It’s such a privilege to work with Heavenly Father in the work of salvation for His children. I’ve come to really feel that these people are my brothers and sisters. We are God’s children, and He’s always aware of our needs, triumphs, and struggles. He’ll never leave us to fend for ourselves–unless we deliberately choose to walk a different path.

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I hope you all have a wonderful week! As you prepare for Christmas this year, think of what the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ has meant for your life. I love you all!!

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Love,
Hernana Saunders

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Week 69: in which we bring Thanksgiving to Chile

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Dear family and friends,

This week I am grateful for many things, not the least of which is my amazing, sweet companion and the many miracles of this week. I wanted to share a few of the miracles from this week:

  1. My companion had lost her wallet, and we were worried because it had a few official documents in it as well as money. But we went to the cyber one day to actualizar referencias, and the owner said someone had turned it in to him! Later, on the way home a different day, we ran into the couple that found it and had a nice chat with them. They agreed to listen to us another day. 😁
  2. On Saturday, we met with an investigator, Hermana Tila, and her 16-year-old daughter, Javiera. They’re passing through some really rough family problems and have a lot of questions. It was wonderful to be able to share a little about the Plan of Salvation and the Atonement with them, and when we invited Javiera to go to church, she accepted immediately. On Sunday morning she wasn’t feeling very well, but she got up and went anyway. She says that she’s looking for real peace and healing, and I know she’ll be able to find it with the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
  3. Javiera, Estefania, Scarlett, AND Millaray all went to church!! Millaray always goes with her family, but we were a little more worried about the other three. But a few days before Estefania had said, “No matter what happens, I’m going, even if I go alone.” And Scarlett brought a friend, Alejandro, who also enjoyed church! On Friday Scarlett had several questions about tithing, and on Sunday all of sacrament meeting was about commandments and tithing. She was amazed to find her answer so quickly and clearly, and she felt great in church. I know it will make a difference in her week. Now just needs to act according to the other answers she’s been given!

This past Monday we celebrated Thanksgiving early with our own dinner. πŸ¦ƒ Our turkey was chicken patties, I made some pretty great mashed potatoes (if I do say so myself 😎), and we boiled some beans and corn. The only thing that was missing was the traditional Saunders pies, but it really was fun to put everything together together, and it was nice to kinda have Thanksgiving. We even had left-overs! πŸ˜€

On Wednesday we had another zone “attack” in Nueva Imperial, another sector close by. The weather was fantastic, and we had a lot of fun inviting everyone who passed by to listen for a couple minutes about the Book of Mormon and the Restoration. At the end of about 2 hours, 95 people had said they wanted to hear more!! It was so cool. At one point, a man stopped by the table and frowned at the pamphlets about Joseph Smith. I thought, “Chuta, he’s going to argue how we worship this “Joe Smith” and who knows what else.” But as he talked with the Hatches, a missionary couple who are in charge of these activities, they explained about Joseph Smith and the restoration with simple and honest testimonies in the Spanish they knew. During the conversation the man’s face changed, and he said, “Yeah, okay. I’d like to hear more.” Even if he only listens a couple times or even just once, it was incredible to see how the Hatches’ soft answers turned away his wrath (Proverbs 15:1).

The miracles continue in this pueblito in Chile. The mission is a wonderful experience, and it’s really changed my life because I’ve allowed it change me. I’m so grateful for every day that I have to share my testimony of my Savior Jesus Christ and of His great love and mercy. There is nothing else that could bring me such joy and satisfaction than to see others allowing Him to change them as well. Thank you for all your love and support that has made me the person I am today. I love you all and hope you have a wonderful week!

Love from Chile,
Hermana Saunders

P.S. Look up the Light the World initiative that the church is heading. It`s fantastic! πŸ˜€Β Β https://www.mormon.org/spa/navidad/25-maneras-25-diasΒ [Note: And here’s the English link, too. — AnnMarie]

Week 66: in which we make gospel panqueques

Dear friends and family,

Have I used that line before? I can’t remember…but we did it again! On Thursday we had family home evening with the Santander family. The mom, Jocelyn, was recently baptized and we’re reviewing the lessons with her. We taught the gospel of Jesus Christ using the recipe for panqueques (which are basically crepes), which was fun, spiritual, and delicious. πŸ˜€ (Fun note: “Queque” in Spanish means “cake,” like a coffee cake. A member recently pointed out that it literally translates as a “whatwhat” in English. XD)

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On Saturday afternoon President May called us with transfers: Hermana Cabezas will train a new missionary here in Arauco, and I’m headed back down south to Cunco, a tiny town near Temuco, where I started my mission. πŸ˜€ I’ve spent the past couple days saying goodbye to the members that I’ve come to love so much here. I’m really going to miss Arauco, but I do look forward to new challenges and miracles in Cunco. I know that transfers are inspired and that God needs me in Cunco now.

Last Sunday after church our investigator Alejandra told us, “I want to get baptized.” I honestly thought she was joking and about burst when I realized she was serious.Β πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ˜„Β  She’s getting baptized this Friday. That’s been one of the biggest miracles from this transfer. πŸ˜€ I won’t be here when for her baptism because I’ve been transferred down south again, but I’m grateful to have been part of this part of her life. She’s a firecracker and will be a great addition to the branch. I asked her how she’s felt as she’s gone through all this, and she told me that she’s finally felt the presence of Christ in her life. She feels like she’s valuable and loved, and she’s felt real changes in her life. I have loved being able to share this beautiful gospel with her and her sister.

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On Wednesday Hermana May, the mission president’s wife, joined us for a few hours of the day. It was fun to spend more time with her; she is a wonderful lady, full of love for the mission and for others. She’s been a powerful influence on me in my mission, and I’m grateful for her love and concern for us missionaries.

In closing I want to share a thought from my personal study: In Doctrine and Covenants 123 Joseph Smith writes to the saints, “my dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie within our power…” I love that word “cheerfully.” The gospel is a joyful lifestyle, and service in whatever way is a joyful opportunity to share the love of God with our brothers and sisters. God has given us talents and gifts specific to us, and He’s placed where our gifts and talents may be of greatest use. I hope we may all seek to “cheerfully do all things that lie within our power” and to bring about the work of the Lord. If you feel like you don’t have any talents or gifts, ask God to show you, and He will help you see yourself more clearly.

I love you all, and I’m grateful for your love and prayers. I hope you have a wonderful week! Have fun, be safe, be happy.

With love,
Hermana Saunders

Week 64: in which the wheels on the bus go round and round and round and round…

Dear friends and family,

We spent four out of seven mornings this week in Concepcion for medical appointments and check-ups for Hermana Cabezas. She’s fine now; we just have to be more careful about proselyting at night because the smoke from the wood stoves bother her asthma. The highlight of the trip was last Monday because our investigator Alejandra and her uncle Mario drove us up and back (they were headed to Conce anyway to drop off a few orders). On the way back we stopped at the temple site, which was a great feeling. I’m so excited for these people to have a temple so much closer!! The Concepcion temple should be finished within this next year, so I’ll miss the opening, but it’s still exciting to see the progress. πŸ˜€

On Friday we met Erika, an old investigator of the hermanas. Hermana Bazaes had taught her and gave us the reference. Through a series of unexpected events, we ended up at Erika’s house, where we shared a video about the power of prayer. The incredible thing was that the experience of the woman in the video was almost exactly that of Erika. We felt the Spirit strongly as she shared her recent challenges, and she told us that in our visit she received many answers and peace that she had desperately needed. We set up another for today, and I left very grateful for the opportunity to once again be a tool in the perfect hands or our loving Heavenly Father.

On Saturday we had a miracle that became a personal parable: We left a cita (an appointment) at 9:15 at night. We needed to get home quickly to plan, but we were on the other end of town, and buses and taxis don’t pass as often in the night. But just as we left the neighborhood, a taxi passed by. I flagged it down but then waved it on because we figured the fee would be much higher at this point on the weekend. But I looked through my bag and scrounged up what I had in coins. (My companion didn’t have money.) Just as I found that, another taxi passed by, and we flagged it down. I asked the driver how much he would charge, hoping against hope that I had enough. He looked at me for a moment and said he would take us both for $1000, which is exactly what I had and not nearly as much as I expected. We were able to get home to plan and get ready for bed on time without problems. As I thought about this experience, I realized that it’s just like the Atonement; we had gotten ourselves into an uncomfortable position and needed help. When this happens, Christ accepts whatever we can give, but–just like the unknowing taximan–He requires ALL we can give. This doesn’t mean that we pay for the consequences of what we did; that’s impossible. Rather, His grace allows all that we can give to be enough to receive forgiveness and mercy and makes change possible. I’m forever grateful for this incredible act of love, and every day I’m learning how to better give my all and to make real changes in my life.

That’s about all for this week! I’m excited for this next week because we have interviews with President and then a multi-zone conference. Wahoo! πŸ˜€ I love being a missionary, and it’s the best decision that I’ve made in my 20 short years. There is no better place for us than in the path of Christ’s gospel.

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

Love,
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 Γ€ngeles; 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. πŸ˜€ 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. πŸ˜€

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. πŸ˜€ 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.Β 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! πŸ˜€ 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. 😬 Β 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. πŸ˜€

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. πŸ˜€ I hope you all have a great week! Remember who you are! Be safe, be smart, be kind.

Love from Chile,
Hermana Saunders