Week 77: in which IT’S THE FINAL COUNTDOWN!

dunudunun! dudundundundun! dunudunun!ย ๐Ÿค˜
Dear family and friends,
Hermana Silva and I have been working hard to talk to everyone in the street, which has led to some interesting encounters. By now I’m pretty much used to the fact that everyone thinks we’re quite odd, but it’s been harder for my companion. I admire the fact that she tries so hard to talk to others and to break out of her shell. She’s helped me slow down (aย littleย bit) in the street so that we don’t rush past the souls that are searching for the restored gospel. ๐Ÿ™‚
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As I start the last week of my mission, I’m sad that I won’t be here to see my investigators get baptized. Matias, Scarlett, and Millaray were all so very close to baptism this cambio, but for reasons outside of our control as missionaries, now won’t be there time. But I have learned that faith simply cannot make others want to gain a testimony or get a job or whatnot; if it’s not the will of the Lord or even their own desire, it won’t happen. I just pray that the missionaries who come behind me will be in tune with the Spirit as they teach and will do all they can to help these people I’ve come to love.
BUT!! This weekend we have the privilege to see the baptism of the son of a recent convert! Teresita was baptized a couple years ago, and her son, Sebastian, turned 8 last month and is SUPER excited to get baptized. We’ve been teaching him the lessons, and with the help of his mom and aunt, he’s been reading and studying and thinking about everything we’ve taught him. I’m excited to teach him about theย templeย andย proxy baptisms; he’s so excited for his own baptism, and I want to help him look forward to the temple and the opportunity to share this gift with his ancestors.
It was something wonderful to see the transmission [Note: I think she meantย broadcast. –AnnMarie]ย with the new prophet. As President Nelson spoke, I felt a quiet and powerful confirmation that he has been called of God and prepared long before now to be our prophet and leader at this time. I’m grateful that God will never again leave us without the guide of a prophet. What a blessing.
This week we had a great lesson with Juri and Manuel, who are friends and employees of a member family, the Vilches. We taught the Plan of Salvation, and we invited another employee, Daniela, to listen as well. She listened with interest and was especially touched when we talked about the spirit world, where those who never had the opportunity to hear the gospel on earth will be able to receive it. Juri and Manuel are so excited to learn more, and they’re progressing well, thanks to the help of the Vilches. Now Daniela has the chance to learn about and accept this great message. I’m so excited to teach her!!
As I contemplate this past transfer, I’ve felt so very grateful for my time as a missionary. I haven’t met all of the goals I made for this cambio or for 2017, but I’ve grown a lot and learned so much. I’m definitely a better person, a better member, a better missionary than the Hermana Saunders who boarded the plane in August 2016. Some things I’ve learned:
  • to put Christ at the center of my life
  • a greater understanding of His marvelous atonement and what it means for me.
  • that people have the divine capacity to change, thanks to the same atonement.
  • to be more patient and less prideful (thanks to some often painful learning experiences)
  • to better manage my time and to do the more important things first, not just the most urgent.
  • Spanish! That has been a fun adventure. ๐Ÿ˜›
  • I’ve memorized the recipe for brownies and pancakes. ๐Ÿ˜€
  • how to cook and shop for one or two people
  • that weaknesses (such as being hopeless for directions) are often balanced with a strength (such as having absolutely no shame about asking for directions ;D

I’ve learned so much more, but I’d need a couple notebooks to fill y’all in on all of it, so I’ll leave it at that. Know that I love my Father in Heaven and my Savior and that I’ve come to know them more personally. I know that the message to which I’ve dedicated 18 months is true. God has restored His perfect gospel and guides us today throughย living prophets. What a comforting truth.

I’ll see several of you very soon. (One week! I can’t believe it…) I hope this email finds you all safe and happy and faithful. Have a wonderful week, my friends!

love from Chile,

Hermana Saunders
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Week [75: in which there isn’t a subject line]

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Dear family and friends,

We’ve had a week full of tender mercies and milagritos. During a zone “attack”, we met to eat lunch together, but my comp and I didn’t have forks (because in Cunco we have been fork-less for a while now). When we went to buy some plastics ones, we ran into a member of the ward, who offered to lend us hers! Then on Wednesday, as we were tracting in Melipeuco, I thought of an investigator who had showed some interest in the last transfer, but I couldn’t remember her name nor her address. After calling a member, we got her name and relative location. I still couldn’t find the direction in my agenda, and even following the member’s directions we didn’t find it. So we went to visit someone else, and as we turned the corner, I recognized the house of Jenifer, the investigator we were looking for! ๐Ÿ˜„ย  We had a good lesson with her and her daughter, Conni, who are very interested in the Plan of Salvation. And on Sunday, our investigator Matรฌas came and brought a friend! His friend enjoyed sacrament meeting and agreed to meet with us later. It’s wonderful to see how God is mindful of all the little things.ย ๐Ÿ˜Š

We met a man this week named Fernando. He was a reference from the church system, and we’ve been trying forย weeksย to set up an appointment with him. We met up with him after work this week and had a great chat. He’s seen a lot in his life, and he asks why he should believe in God. He was very interested in what we had to say about trials and the role that God plays in our lives. We left him with a Plan of Salvation pamphlet, and he says he really wants us to talk with his wife too. ๐Ÿ˜€ I’m so excited to share this with them both and to help them find peace and joy in Christ. ๐Ÿ™‚

It’s been a good week here in Chile, and I’m grateful for each day that I have to serve as a missionary. It’s been the best 17 1/2 months of my life, in which I have grown (in more ways than one…:P) and felt so much the love of God for me and for my brothers and sisters around me.

I hope you all have a great week! May you see the miracles and tender mercies in each day. Be safe, be kind, be patient. And always remember who you are!!

Love,
Hermana Saunders

Week 73: in which we have an almost-white Christmas

Dear family and friends,

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday, like we had here in Cunco.ย ๐Ÿ˜Šย  This year Hermana Silva and I did something a little different from the traditional Chilean Christmas: we went caroling! A family from the branch accompanied us to visit a few investigators, part-member families, and less-active members, and we sang Christmas hymns and left a small gift for the family. I hope that they felt our love and concern for them through this little act of service. It was fun, and it brought a special spirit to the day.

On Christmas day Hermano Carlos and Hermana Patricia invited us to visit the Conguillio National Park that’s in our sector. The weather was perfect, and the park is gorgeous. ๐Ÿ˜€ It includes a volcano and snow-capped mountains; in the winter the whole park is covered with snow, but at this time of year, the snow was too far up on the mountain to reach in the time we had.ย ๐Ÿ™ย  But we had a great time adventuring and admiring the beautiful world that God has given us.ย ๐Ÿค—

On Wednesday we witnessed the miracle of a family who seeks to share the gospel. The Vilches family have their own business, and they contracted a Columbian family to work for them. This family is just great. ๐Ÿ˜ย  They’re hard workers, and they really want to find the truth. They’ve seen a lot and suffered a lot–they’re working to bring their last son from Columbia to Chile to be with them–and the message of the Restoration really called their attention. They attended the branch party on Friday and church on Sunday, and the husband, Manuel, said he had never felt so good in a church. The branch gave them a warm welcome, and the Vilches are always present to answer questions when we aren’t there. I know that the Lord brought them to little Melipeuco (a pueblito in our sector where the Vilches live) in His perfect timing and with the perfect family.

In my studies I came across a phrase that has run through my head this week: “Am I living in such a way that the Lord can work through me?” I’ve come to realize that God has given His children many wonderful things to enjoy but that He expects us to develop and use the gifts and talents He’s given us to bless others. He wants us to change the world little by little and to “do many [good] things of [our] own free will” (D&C 58:27).

I’ve also taken a challenge given several months ago to study all of the references to Jesus Christ in the scriptures. It has been an enormously rewarding experience, and I’ve grown closer to my Savior as I’ve more about His life and ministry. The hymns have become so much more personal to me as I sing, “I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me, confused at the grace that so fully He proffers me” (I Stand All Amazed). It really is incredible to think that He meekly suffered all for the love of His Father in heaven and for me. His example is unique and incredible, and I’m grateful for each day that I’ve had to serve as His representative.

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We found out yesterday that Karin, one of our investigators, suffered a cerebral stroke and is in a pretty bad state in the hospital. It will mean a long time of recovery and trial for both her and her family. Please keep them in your prayers.

I hope you all have a wonderful week! Be safe, be kind, be faithful. And always remember who you are!

 

Love,
Hermana Saunders

Week 72: in which we “attack” Carahue

Dear family and friends,

Today is our p-day because yesterday we had TRANSFERS. dun dun DUUUNNN. Yesterday I was very sad to say goodbye to Hermana Milne, who was transferred to the other end of the mission. ๐Ÿ˜› But I’m looking forward to the miracles and fun times of this transfer with Hermana Silva, from Peru. She’s quiet but fun, and she’s a convert of a little less than a year! She has an incredible testimony, and she’s a hard worker. ๐Ÿ˜€

Monday was a lot of fun because we had a sports championship with the other a neighboring zone. ๐Ÿ˜€ We played a series of games in small groups. My team got creamed, but we had fun. ๐Ÿ˜€

On Wednesday we had a grand total of 0 people in English classes in Melipeuco, a tiny neighboring city, BUT we had a fantastic lesson with Scarlett, who isย so closeย to getting baptized. She loves the gospel, and it’s been a great experience to see how the light of Christ has brightened in her face.ย ย I love her so much!!ย โค๐Ÿ˜„

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On Thursday we had a zone “attack” a little different in Carahue. We set up basically the same way as before, but this time we focused more on Christmas and the church’sย #IluminaElMundo (#LightTheWorld) campaign (https://www.mormon.org/spa/navidad). We talked about the real meaning of Christmas with those who passed by, and they shared their thoughts on a whiteboard and cards. It was fun to work together with the zone and to see people from all walks of life talk about Christ and what He means to them.

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Wboard Carahue

The miracles of this week have been lots of tender little mercies that have shown us how much God loves us. I was really sad to say goodbye to Hermana Milne, but when we got up early on Monday to go to the bus terminal, we woke up to an absolutely gorgeous sunrise. Sunrises are something special for the both of us, so I’m grateful for that last little moment I had to share with her. Earlier in the week, we were able to follow a very subtle prompting from the Spirit that led us to a sister on the anniversary of her mother’s death, and we were able to help her feel a little less down. Several times we caught the busย barelyย in time to not be late instead of missing it and having to wait another half hour. ๐Ÿ˜› We had seats on the bus after aย very long day, so we could rest instead of traveling standing up in the bus. I’m grateful for these little reminders that God is always mindful of His children.ย ๐Ÿ˜„๐ŸŒŸ

I love being a missionary. It’s the best thing I could be doing with my life right now, and it’s such a blessing to share this gospel that has brought so much joy to my life. I know that I am a daughter of God, who loves me, and I’ve come to really feel that these people, those who surround me, are my brothers and sisters, children of God who are trying to find their way back to Him. ๐Ÿ˜€

I hope you all have a wonderful week! May you have a truly special Christmas.ย ๐Ÿ˜Š๐ŸŽ„๐ŸŒŸ

Love,
Hermana Saunders

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 ร€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. ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Šย  It was also wonderful to see several friends from the mission. I get to work with such great people, de verdad. โค

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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! ๐Ÿ˜„

Millaray the little missionary

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”! ๐Ÿ˜€ We met together in the plaza in Cunco and did the same activity as before. In two hours, we received 52 references!! ๐Ÿ˜€ 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!!

I cut my hair

Love,
Hernana Saunders

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. ๐Ÿ˜€ (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. ๐Ÿ˜€ 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.ย ๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜„ย  She’s getting baptized this Friday. That’s been one of the biggest miracles from this transfer. ๐Ÿ˜€ 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 65: in which Hermana Saunders gets a taste of home

Dear friends and family,
Another good week here in Chile. On Friday we had an absolutely FANTASTIC multi-zone conference in Concepcion. I came away with many much-needed answers and feeling very much spiritually uplifted. One of the things that really hit me was the presentation of the assistants to the president, Elders Sanchez and Garcia. They had us consider our hands and think about what they had done, and then they talked about the Savior’s hands. While here on earth we will never be exactly like the Savior, it was a powerful comparison and gave me something to consider. At the end of the day, what have my hands done? Have they served others? Did they shake every possible hand in the street? I hope that at the end of every day, I can say that my hands have done the very best they can to serve my Father in Heaven.

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We spent Thursday night in the mission home in Concepcion because it’s two hours away in bus. ๐Ÿ˜› Hermana May, the president’s wife, gave us grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for dinner and then French toast for breakfast. I was a very, very happy hermana. I’ve eaten many yummy things here in Chile, but it was wonderful to have some of the food that I ate often at home. We also passed the temple on the way to the mission home, which was wonderful. It’s so exciting to see the progress on the temple, and it makes me even more excited to visit the Cedar City temple when I get home. ๐Ÿ˜€

 

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Monday was exciting because we went to Lebu (about an hour away) to register for my second visa. Wahoo! Thankfully it was a quick and easy visit, and Alejandra, who graciously agreed to drive us, showed us some cool historical parts of Lebu, like an old mine that was once one of the most productive mines in Chile but is now closed. It’s cool to see parts of the history of the people I’m serving.

And today we had a zone Halloween party, which was interesting. We weren’t able to find a pumpkin in time, so I carved a face into an apple. It turned out okay. ๐Ÿ˜€ We played games and presented our costumes; some went all-out, while others (like me…) went for the idea of a costume. It was great to spend some time with the zone, and everyone loved the brownie cookies I brought. ๐Ÿ˜€

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Bueno, that’s just a little bit of my week here in Chile. I hope things are going well for you guys, or if it’s not, that you’re relying on your Heavenly Father to guide you in difficult times. Remember that you are truly a child of God; nothing can change that–no sin, no mistake, no weakness. He loves you and watches over you always. I love you all!! Be safe, be kind, be grateful.

Love from Chile,
Hermana Saunders