Week 63: in which ataquamos la carpeta

Because it sounds cooler in Spanish. 😀

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 😦 ) 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”: the fourth 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. 😀 Hay milagros en la carpeta! 😀

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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 are 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

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Week 60: in which we say a lot of goodbyes

Dear friends and family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lots of love,
Hermana Saunders

Week 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. 😀

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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. 😀

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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.  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 where I 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. 😀 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 53: in which we fail as ninjas

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Dear family and friends,

We’re in Coronel (about an hour an a half bus ride from Arauco) today to make sure Hermana Scholl stays legal, so I’m writing this from the first public library I’ve seen in a year. It feels good to be in a library; anyone who knows me knows that I’ve pretty much lived in the public and university libraries, so it feels like a bit of home. 😀

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On Tuesday we had a pretty cool miracle. We planned and practiced to teach Lesson 1 [about the Restoration] to our investigator Carlos because we thought he had read that pamphlet. However, we started the lesson, and he pulled out Lesson 3 [about the Gospel] and started talking about what called his attention and how he felt about it. I looked at my companion and then at Carlos, stowed my Lesson 1 pamphlet, pulled out Lesson 3, and began teaching Lesson 3. I explained about faith, then passed it to my comp to teach repentance. We finished a fantastic lesson, he accepted a baptismal date!!, and we left. As we walked away, Hermana Scholl looks at me and says, “I’ve never taught that lesson in my life!” But she had studied it. We laughed and thanked Heavenly Father for giving us the words to say to help His son progress.

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This week we tried a new way to find people to teach. Borrowing an idea from Hermana Custódio, we printed off some talks from Conference and left them on doorsteps in a street we had prayed about previously. On Saturday we went back to contact those houses and ask how they liked the talks. Well, the idea was to leave the talks without being seen, but it seemed like just as we got to the street, everyone was looking out their windows or leaving or fixing something in their car or coming home, which made it much more difficult to be invisible. Bueno…but we had fun trying to be inconspicuous and humming the Mission Impossible theme. Seems like a career as an FBI agent isn’t for me. 😛 I’ll just stick to editing or music therapy or something.  😝

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This Sunday I felt so grateful that the church is the same in every part of the world, no matter in which city or country. We didn’t have an investigator that attended at our chapel, BUT Carlos went to church in Concepcion! He was well-received there by the missionaries and had a great experience. He couldn’t stay for all three hours, but he wanted to. He accepted a baptismal date this week as well, and he sincerely wants to do what God requires of him.

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Well, that’s a bit of my week. I hope yours was also great and that you’ve found the  miracles in each day. I invite you all to read this talk [The Gift of Grace] on grace from Pres. Uchtdorf. I think it’s one of the best I’ve ever read and it helped me understand even better how God’s grace really changes my life.

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Know that I love you all! God is watching over you all and is mindful of your needs. When you leave your room in the morning, don’t forget to pray.

Love from Chile,
Hermana Saunders

Week 52: in which I have a week of miracles

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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

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Dear family and friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love from Chile,
Hermana Saunders