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

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Week 49: in which I become a papà!! :D

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Dear friends and family,

I’m a papà! In mission lingo, the first trainer you have is your “mom,” and the second trainer is your “dad.” The trainer(s) of your trainer(s) are your grandparents, and if your trainer trained other missionaries, they’re your “siblings.” Since I’m the second trainer of Hermana Scholl, I’m her “papà,” complete with dad jokes. 😀 It’s fun. 😀

On Tuesday I traveled from Los Àngeles to Concepciòn to meet my new companion, Hermana Scholl, and to receive training for new trainers. Training is a new experience, one of much growth. 😛 But we’ll have fun. 😀 I love Hermana Scholl; although she has 7 weeks in the mission field, she teaches with sincerity and love in the little Spanish that she knows. And she’s an example to me; she really wants to improve a lot in Spanish, so we’ve been talking in Spanish almost 24/7. 😀 I’m surprised by the fact that it’s less of a challenge that I thought, and it’s gratifying to realize that I’ve really improved a lot in my Spanish!

And now I’m here in Arauco, about 15 minutes from the ocean! This is my first time in a little city, and it’s a… different experience. We have a branch here, which means that about 30 people attend church on Sunday. 😛 We also work in several other surrounding towns that are even smaller, so we spend some time traveling. Downtown shuts down around 7:30 at night, and very few people open the door after the sun goes down around 6:30. And it rains. A lot. I’m very grateful for warm clothes and rain gear. (Froggtogg for the win!) We live with another companionship, Hermana Lopez and Hermana Vasquez, in a house we’re renting from a member. (Tip for anyone headed for mid-or southern Chile: bring a sleeping bag because it is often freezing at night, even with a heater. :P) It’s a safe and comfortable house, and I love the sisters we live with. 😊

On Wednesday we had district meeting. It was nice to see some familiar faces; Elder Contreras was my DL in Los Àngeles; Elder Ramos, our current DL, was also in Temuco; and Elders Smith and Howes have been in other zones with me. AND I found another Sky View buddy! Elder Duffin was in the same grade at Sky View in Logan; we never met, but it’s cool. Que chico el mundo….

I still have so much to learn about being a missionary, and I’m grateful for this opportunity to train because I know I’ll learn a lot. I’m grateful that even though I’m so imperfect, God is infinitely patient and can use me in His perfect work. I love being a missionary!

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

Love,
Hermana Saunders

Week 48: in which change is in the air

Dear friends and family,

Well, looks like I’m headed out this transfer. We got the call on Saturday night that I’m headed to Arauco (my companion’s old area!) to finish the training of new missionary, and Hermana Custodio is staying here to train a greenie! 😀 (A greenie is a new missionary.)  I’m sad that the time has come to say good-bye to Villa Obispo and to Hermana Custodio. I really fell in love with the mission, the members, and the investigators here, and I feel that I have worked harder here than I have at any other time in the mission. It’s so true that service is one way that true love really grows. I’m so grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to be here. I’m also a little nervous about training. I’m grateful for the demonstration of God’s confidence in me, and I’m trying to live up to that. I also know there are things one can learn only through training. I look forward to the opportunity to share with a new missionary all that I’ve learned in these 11(!!!!!!) months and to see what God needs to teach me (probably a little more patience, hope, and charity). I know that if I allow Him to, He can make more of me than I could ever do alone.

Anita Burgos y Felix Rios

On Sunday Chile played in the semi-finals of some championship, which meant that nobody was in the street in the afternoon. Chile becomes a ghost town when there’s a big game on, so it’s nice to be able to plan and study during that time. 😛

Eugenia Sepulveda y Barbara Salamanca

Lesli wasn’t able to go to church this week because of a family trip, but she’s still excited for her baptism (now on the 15). Paola is working to overcome her fear of marriage and meet the goal of her baptism on the 22; she knows that this message is true, and she says she’ll do whatever is necessary to be baptized this month. She is really an incredible woman; I have an enormous respect for her as a mother, woman, and friend. I’m sad that I’ll be so far away for these baptisms and marriage, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to be at least a part of their conversion and to love them.

Scarlet Alarcon, Gustavo, Florencia3

It’s a short one today because time is also short, but know that I love you all. I know that God has restored His true church on the earth because He loves us and wants His children to have clarity and truth. I know that through the Atonement of Christ, we may really become clean and be healed from all affliction, sin, and grief. A member asked me yesterday how I came to know Christ; as I’ve taught, prayed, fasted, served, cried, and repented in these 11 months, Christ has become more real to me than ever. He is my Savior, my Brother, my Friend. I feel His love so much stronger, and as I’ve sought the healing and enabling power of His Atonement, I’ve felt His peace and grown to become a much better person, teacher, and missionary. I urge you all to study His words and His Atonement and to apply it daily in your lives.

Sofia, x, Hna Ingrid Zuloaga, Andres

¡Besitos y abrazos a todos! May you always remember who you are. 😀

Love,
Hermana Saunders

Week 38: in which lots of cool things happen :D

Dear family and friends,

Gabriel got baptized on Saturday and confirmed on Sunday! He came to church in his suit and tie, and he looked like a future stake president. 😀 I’m so happy and grateful to be part of his conversion process. And his girlfriend, Lorena, accepted a baptismal date on Thursday! She says that she’s been searching for real personal change, changes that never came from confessions or reciting. In the gospel is the only place she’s really felt a change of heart, and she wants to really feel forgiven. Both she and Gabriel want to raise a family within the church. The Spirit was so strong in that lesson, and I’m so excited for the great family they’ll become.

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Friday was a pretty incredible day. I can now say that I’ve had the chance to meet an apostle of the Lord! President Nelson and his wife came to Concepción on Friday to meet with the missionaries of the our mission and the Concepción Mission. I wish I had brought my notes so that I could share more thoughts with you, but it was an incredible conference. President Nelson and his wife and Elder Teixeira (of [the Quorum of] the Seventy) and his wife all spoke. P. Nelson spoke a lot about the Book of Mormon. He told us to mentally highlight the influence of the BoM in our lives, press “delete,” and think about what our lives would lack if we didn’t have the clarity and second witness of the Book of Mormon. Among the many things I’d lack is the knowledge that children who die without baptism are saved in Christ; that God spoke–and speaks–to all of His children, in every part of the world; and that I can be forgiven and made new through the atonement of Christ. How precious this knowledge is! I invite you all to do this same activity and then make the commitment to making scripture study a priority. ¿Lo harán? 😉

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On Wednesday we were in the house almost all day because of the 2017 Censo. It’s a law in Chile that you can’t leave until you’ve been counted, so we took advantage of that time to deep clean the apartment. We found some pretty neat stuff, including a couple sparkly party hats. 😀 The great thing about deep-cleaning in the fall is the lack of spiders lurking in the corners.

Every day I’m so grateful for the opportunity and great privilege of being a missionary in Chile. Not every day is bright sunshine, and not everyone wants to talk to the friendly neighborhood gringas, but the opposition makes the sunshine and converts all the more sweet. I’m also grateful for the principle of continuous progress; I’ve got a lot to work on, but what a blessing to know I’m not doing it alone! I know that I–and every single one of you–have my Father in Heaven and my Savior Jesus Christ cheering me on, as well as loved ones here and there.

That’s all for this week! Know that I love you all! Remember that you are a beloved child of your Heavenly Father, and His work and glory is your eternal happiness and salvation. How does that make you feel?

Be safe. Be smart. Be kind. And be grateful!

Love from Chile,
Hermana Saunders

P.S. I wanted to share a bit of wisdom I found in a bus stop bathroom last week: “Sometimes God doesn’t change your situation because what he wants to change is your HEART.” Probably the most inspirational graffiti I’ve seen. 😉 How very true. 🙂

Week 29: in which the Hermanas save the day!

Dear friends and family,

I hope every had a great Valentine’s Day! I wish I had counted the number of couples we saw on Tuesday, but Hermana Nielson and I were the only table without a couple in Papa John’s. 😛 (A member gave us money to eat where we wanted to, so we enjoyed that. :D)

We had a pretty great week, and I feel like we accomplished some good things. 😀 We met with Elisabeth, whom we contacted in the street a few weeks ago. We walk in to her apartment and surprise! Turns out we’ve also contacted her parents as well! Her mom is “Catholic until I die!” but Elisabeth is very open. We also started teaching the son of Mierta this week; he’s really interested in learning more about the church and participated a lot in the last lesson. He says that he’s only “trying it out” and that he needs to know more before he can form any kind of opinion, but I know that as he honestly seeks his answer, he’ll find the truth. I´m grateful we’re teaching him too because now he can help her.

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As a zone on Wednesday, we helped a sister clear her yard of branches, weeds, and other stuffs. Afterwards she made us a really yummy lunch that included sopaipillas, which is fry-bread and one of my weaknesses here in Chile. It’s definitely one of the reasons I’ve grown out a little here… Her husband also showed us around their huge country property. We walked to the river that was close to their house; it’s cool because people pay to camp close to this river, but they get a free(-ish) year-round pass!

We helped with an open house at the chapel in Laja on Saturday, which was a really great experience. At the open house we give tours of the church and give a crash-course version of the basic doctrine. I love it. As I testified again and again about basic beliefs that I hold dear, I felt quiet confirmations of the truthfulness of all of it. I am so grateful for my testimony, and I’ve learned how essential a solid testimony is. Hermana Nielson is a great example of this. She asks a lot of questions, but nothing seems to rock her faith. She shows that questions are good, but she does exactly what President Uchtdorf says we should: doubt our doubts before we doubt our faith. I’m grateful for her example.

[Here is his whole quote:

Some might ask, “But what about my doubts?”

“It’s natural to have questions—the acorn of honest inquiry has often sprouted and matured into a great oak of understanding. There are few members of the Church who, at one time or another, have not wrestled with serious or sensitive questions. One of the purposes of the Church is to nurture and cultivate the seed of faith—even in the sometimes sandy soil of doubt and uncertainty. Faith is to hope for things which are not seen but which are true.

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters—my dear friends—please, first doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith. We must never allow doubt to hold us prisoner and keep us from the divine love, peace, and gifts that come through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” – AnnMarie]

Sunday was a really great day. It started with the best part–sacrament meeting–and continued with some cool little miracles. We had probably one of the most interesting street contacts of my mission: We were walking down the street, looking for a house. Suddenly, a big dog started freaking out over the little dachshund of a lady who was walking close to us. She picked up her dog and kept walking, trying in vain to shoo the other dog away. Hermana Nielson picked up a rock, and the big dog shrank back a little farther but kept barking and still wouldn’t leave the lady alone. Finally a neighbor helped us out, and we stopped to talk to the lady. Turns out she lives in our apartment! We had a great conversation, and she’s interested in learning a little more. She was more interested in the English classes and Pilates, but she said she’ll listen. God has a funny way of putting people together.

That’s the highlights of this week. I love you all! Remember who you are and that your Heavenly Father is always listening and on your side. Be safe. Be smart. Be kind.

Love,
Hermana Saunders

Week 25: in which Hermana Saunders travels the world

Dearest family and friends,

Hola from Los Angeles! Los Angeles, Chile, that is. 😉 It’s a little toasty here; it’s reached 100 degrees several times this week. But hey! At least the wash dries really quickly! Also, there’s one sector here where all of the street names are countries, everything from Estados Unidos to Japon. It’s great. 😀

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My new companion is Hermana Nielson. She’s fantastic, and we get along really well. However, I beginning to think that one of the things Heavenly Father is trying to teach me is how to compromise; He’s given me three companions who are wonderful people but COMPLETELY opposite of me. BUT we have a few very important things in common: we love the gospel and our mission; we love to serve; we want to be obedient, and we love the people; and we’re determined to work with the Spirit and with love. 🙂

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I really love working with Hermana Nielson. I feel comfortable asking any questions or for help, and she has an amazing love for the people here. I’m grateful for what I’ve learned from her in just this week. I’m completely lost in the sector, but I know that’s normal for the first week and that I’ll learn soon enough. The ward members are warmly receptive of the missionaries, and I can feel their love and support. (It helps when you’re given ice cream from three different members in your first day…) I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with them.

On Tuesday we had an interesting lesson. We were teaching Christian, who is returning to the church after a while, and his girlfriend, Valeria, who is super sweet and just great. I was explaining something about the Book of Mormon when all of a sudden my nose started bleeding! I ran into the bathroom and was there for a few minutes until it stopped. We all laughed about it, but I was a little embarrassed… 😛

On Saturday we helped at an open-house in Cabrera, where we gave tours of the church. It was really cool, and a LOT of people came. It was great to see so many people at least interested about learning qué tal with the Mormons, and the sisters there now have several new contacts.

We spent a lot of time contacting this week, which meant quite a bit of time in the street but less time in the houses. But we did see miracles with the progression of recent converts who have gone inactive. A very sweet sister attended church after several months of inactivity, and she was able to find answers to questions in Principles of the Gospel [in English, it’s Gospel Principles]. (That class is definitely inspired.) Yesterday we FINALLY encountered a sister we’ve been searching for all week. She’s really struggling to accept the church, and Hermana Nielson says that this whole time she’s been really closed with the missionaries, so it’s been difficult to address her concerns. But yesterday she shared several doubts that she’s had about the church and about the doctrine, and we were able to understand and address some of her concerns. I look forward to helping her regain her faith and come closer to her Heavenly Father.

I love you all! Remember who you are. Be safe, be smart, be kind, and trust in your Heavenly Father.

Ciao for now!

Hermana Saunders

Week 15: in which Hermana Saunders becomes a rich missionary

Dear family and friends,

Nah, mentira. But honestly, if I had a dollar for every person who asked me about or mentioned the [US’s] election in the past week, I would be a very rich Hermana Saunders. I think some people in Chile are more concerned about it that many people in the United States. I can only pray for our country.

This week our miracles were more in our finding experiences. We’ve been praying to find families to teach, and we spent most of this week contacting. This week we have seven new investigators, four of which are in the same family, and we encountered several families who, at the very least, accepted a return appointment. A less-active family came to church on Sunday, the first time together in many years. Hermana Bazaes and I were so excited to see them in the chapel, and I know God will bless them for the sacrifice they made to be there. Almost all of our appointments fell through this week, but I trust that “when the plans of men fall, the plans of God rise.” We weren’t able to teach many of our current investigators, but we had the opportunity to be sowers of seeds in many lives. I’m learning that while we are called to be “fishers of men,” part of our purpose is to be sowers of seeds as well, and both responsibilities are essential in this work, and it takes humility and diligence to be both.

On Monday the hermanas in our district went to Jack’s, an American restaurant in Temuco that is really good. It was so good to eat a true-blue American burger and brownies with ice cream. The only major difference between Jack’s and any restaurant in the US was that the TV was tuned to a soccer game instead of football. 😉

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On Friday I had my second intercambio, in which I worked in my sector with Hermana Rowden, and Hermana Bazaes worked in another sector with Hermana Rico. I felt so much more confident with this intercambio than my first, and it helped that it wasn’t pouring rain this time. We didn’t get lost, and we had some really great contacts. Yay for finding families!

On Saturday the gringos had an interesting opportunity. An organization in Temuco hosted a Festival of the Nations, where people from different countries set up booths and talked about their respective countries. There were also dance performances from the different countries. (I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t a swing dance performance for the US, but I figure very few people here even know what that is.) The owner of Jack’s asked the gringo missionaries to come and man the United States booth. We spent a few hours answering questions and talking about the US with the people who passed by. Most people asked about Hawaii and Disney World, which I know almost nothing about, but it was still pretty cool. AND we even found a few new people to teach! We weren’t allowed to share anything about the church unless people asked specifically about us, but a few people did ask, so that was great. 😀 Also, for our service on Saturday, we get a free burger at Jack’s today. Wahoo!!

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My friends, I know that God loves each of you very much. It’s such a blessing to be able to share this love with the people of Temuco. Trust your Heavenly Father, and pray to Him. He wants to hear from you. Keep your head up, be kind, and remember who you are!

I love you all!

Ciao until next week.
Love,
Hermana Saunders