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˜„

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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”! 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!!

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Love,
Hernana Saunders

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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

Week 63: in which ataquamos la carpeta

Because it sounds cooler in Spanish. ๐Ÿ˜€

Dear friends and family,
The title of my e-mail reads, “in which we attack the area book.” The area book is where the missionaries record the names and progress of people they’ve taught or contacted. An “attack” is when a group of missionaries from different sectors descend on one sector to help the missionaries find people to teach. On Friday the sisters from the other zone (because we’re the only ones in ours ๐Ÿ˜ฆ ) came and helped us call people from the area book to set up appointments. It was fun to spend time working with them, especially since Hermana Bazaes, my trainer, is one of them! It was great to talk with her again and to meet another “sister”: theย fourthย trainee of Hermana B, Hermana Baer. We ended up with several appointments for this week. I look forward to the progress we’ll see with these people. ๐Ÿ˜€ Hay milagros en la carpeta! ๐Ÿ˜€

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A miracle from this week was the opportunity to be in the right place at the right time. We passed the house of a home-bound member, Hermana Clarisoni, on the way to visit a less-active member. She had just looked out the window, saw us, and gestured us inside. Instead of telling her that we were headed somewhere else, I followed the prompting to just spend time with her. We spent a while chatting with her about her life and experiences. She is really an incredible lady and one of the most faithful members I’ve ever met. She`s currently home-bound because of various illnesses, but she’s determined to go to church at least once in November. As we talked, we learned that she had had a particularly terrible day. I’m grateful that God sent us down that street so that we could be there to help that sweet sister. We can`t do much for her physically, but it does one a lot of good to talk with people who love you.

This week I read an article called “Motherhood in the Savior’s Way” from the Liahona, one of the church’s magazines. In it a tired mother of young children reflects about what it means to be a mother in the Savior’s way. She reflected on her tendency to complain or to compare the list of things she does for her kids with that of her kids when they complain. In her thoughts she realizes that Christ never did any of those things. He served without complaining out of pure, perfect love. He never expected praise nor sought it, and He never, ever compares how much He did for us when we complain to Him, although He’ll always remind us of the possibilities His atonement makes possible.

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And somehow, despite all of our imperfections and shortcomings, God still sees fit to send us miracles, even small ones, our way. Antonia is progressing, and she loves to learn. We made a reading calendar for her this week, which was something fun and different. Rayen, who got baptized last week, is excited to go to the temple, and her mom is rallying hard to really come back to church. We’re looking for new ways to animate the members to work with us. Today a sister called and said that her two older children, Araura (9) and Maxi (6) really want to make visits with us. They both recently shared a pass-along card with their respective teachers, and they love to talk with the missionaries. They are an example to all of us, and they areย so cute!!

In other news, I’m learning to knit a scarf, I made a really cool decorative thing from wool (pics to come, I hope), and the weather can’t make up its mind about whether it wants to be winter or summer. The gospel is true; I know because I’ve asked and I’ve puts its principles to the test. It truly is God’s plan for us, and if we’ll trust Him enough to put our life in His perfect hands, He’ll make more of us than we can ever imagine. Take courage from the fact that He knows your potential, and He’ll help you accomplish it. As Elder Cook once said, “Yes, you can–and you will–make it.” God loves you, and I do too. Have a great week!

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 ร€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.ย ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š

On Friday no one was able to make it to English classes, so we helped the youth clean the chapel, which was fun. ๐Ÿ˜€ 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. ๐Ÿ˜€

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 59: in which Chile throws a PARTY

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Dear friends and family,

Whew! What a weekend! This Monday was Chile’s independence day, and Chileans start celebrating early, so from Saturday to yesterday night we were in the house after 8 at the latest. Friday night was the branch party, which was a lot of fun. A sister in our ward also let us borrow huasa dresses, the traditional dress, which we wore all day in the street and at the party. I must say we looked good. ;D With the ward we played traditional games and ate great food. For the sake of time I’ll let you look up the traditional 18 de septiembre food, but know that it was delicious. ๐Ÿ˜€

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Saturday morning was a lot of fun. The entire zone helped at a nursing home here in Arauco. We sang for the residents, colored with them, and just talked with some of them. Then we helped feed the residents who needed to be spoon-fed. It was a lot of fun because they all had such different personalities and much to teach us. One of the men had a beautiful voice and sang some old huaso songs, and everyone listened. We felt a special spirit that comes from really serving with love. I love being a missionary!

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It’s interesting how before this trio, I was nervous and a little apprehensive about being in a trio. Now I don`t want the cambio to end and split the trio. I’ve grown to really love these two hermanas, and I’ve learned much form both of them. Hermana Lopez taught me how to really plan the lessons, and I think that’s part of the reason that the lessons we did have went relatively smoothly, even from the beginning. Hermana Cuevas taught me the importance of positivity. She sometimes got frustrated with us when we would complain about this or that, and she’d tell us, “But look at everything that went WELL before you go off on the bad!!” I’m grateful for the opportunity to get to know them as companions. There’s a definite difference between living in the same house with someone and living and serving 24/7 with them. I’ve gotten to know and love these sisters for their energy, love for the work, and their testimonies. And now I feel like we’re good friends. ๐Ÿ˜€

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This week we were finally able to meet with Carlos, whom we are still teaching because he’s not able to meet with the missionaries in Talcahuano right now. We taught the Word of Wisdom, and he shared that he really wants to stop smoking. And then, as we talked, he shared something incredible: before, he was smoking about 20 cigarettes each day, but now he reads the Book of Mormon almost every night, and he’s down to 2 or 3 each day! And he feels greater peace and strength in his life, and he feels much closer to his Heavenly Father. We’re working with him to stop smoking completely, which I know he can do, but I’m very grateful for the power of the Book of Mormon. It truly is a powerful testimony of Christ, and it helps us replace the things that distance us from God with the best things that bring us closer to him. What a wonderful book!

I learned a little about patience, faith, and humility this week as we worked with a few less-active families that are simply choosing not to act or are acting against what they know to be right. We left a lesson with one such member, and I voiced my frustration and sadness with my companions. Hermana Cuevas reminded me that I cannot work against their agency, nor do their choices determine my effectiveness as a missionary.ย  As she talked, I thought, “I know this already! But this is different! I literally don’t know what else to do!” But as I thought about it later, I realized that it wasn’t different. As I studied in the scriptures later, I thought about with what kind of attitude I’ve approached such situations. I realized that any time I get frustrated or impatient, the Spirit cannot work with me. Frustration is also a lack of faith and the appearance of pride; I was frustrated because I hadn’t seen results whereย Iย thought there should be. What I should feel is the security that I have really done what I can to help and love this family and the faith that one day, in the LORD`S timing, my work will bear fruit. In the meantime, I must keep working hard and seeking diligently for the guidance of the Spirit. It was a very powerful and loving lesson, for which I’m grateful.

Know that I love you and pray for you all. I hope you’ll remember to always do the little things: read your scriptures, go to church, and pray always. If you aren`t doing those things, I invite you to start now. Experience for yourself the power of the Book of Mormon and of sincere prayer. I promise you that you will never regret taking the time to do so.

Lots of love from the other half of the world,
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. ๐Ÿ˜€ 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.ย 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! ๐Ÿ˜€ 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