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. 😀 (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. 😀 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. 😄😄😄😄😄😄😄😄😄😄😄😄  She’s getting baptized this Friday. That’s been one of the biggest miracles from this transfer. 😀 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

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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. 😛 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. 😀

 

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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. 😀 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. 😀

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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 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 54: in which there was much rejoicing

Yaaayy…

Dearest friends and family,

Some of you will get that reference, but if you don’t it’s okay. 😛 [Note: I think she’s referring to this scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. — AnnMarie] We are now the very happy occupants [sic] [Note: I think she means owners — hopefully they don’t live in the dryer… — AnnMarie] of a brand-new dryer!! *insert very happy dance* It actually came a couple weeks ago, but just this week we were able to install it. But it is a wonderful blessing. Very few people have dryers here because electricity is really expensive, but most homes have wood-burning stoves, so they can dry their clothes in that way. As missionaries, we don’t have that luxury, and in the winter, it rains so often that things take FOREVER to dry. So now we are very happy missionaries. 😀

In other news, it’s been a good week. We received transfers on Saturday night, and Hermana Scholl and I are staying together!! Wahoo! But we’re saying farewell for now to Hermana Vasquez, who is headed to Los Àngeles this transfer. (Yay LA!! :D) The training sisters challenged us to a 30-day fast from things that are keeping us from progressing, which includes a 30-day English fast. *dun dun DUUUNH* We’ve now gone 3 days and counting without talking in English (with the exception of a few slip-ups. :P). I’m grateful for this challenge because I know it will help me be a better missionary, companion, and person in general. It’s not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be, and we still talk a lot together. I think Hermana Scholl is finding that she knows more than she thought she did. We also found TEN new people to teach this week, including several families. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to help these brothers and sisters of mine find the great joy that the gospel brings. It’s a privilege to be a part of that process, and I’m so grateful for this time.

Wednesday was interesting because Hermana Vasquez–after a rather stressful morning–was taken to the hospital in Concepciòn for some really strong virus that completely wiped her out. She’s perfectly fine now, but she had us worried. I’m so thankful for good health care.

Later on Wednesday we did divisions with the training sisters, which was fun. I was with Hermana Chavez, who was my second comp in Temuco! We talked a lot about Temuco and how we’ve changed since then. It was good to work with her again.

Saturday night we had a branch party in which we created the “longest completo in history.” We set up tables from one end of the gym to the other and placed gigantic hot dog buns end-to-end the entire length of the gym. Then we all worked together to put the completos together and enjoyed the results. 😀 If I can I’ll send a picture. 😀 We had to leave early for an appointment, but the branch kept the party going with karaoke for a few more hours after that. We’ve got some pretty good voices here in Arauco.

Well, time’s about up, so I’ll close with my testimony. I know that God guides this work and that He loves and is always aware of His children. I know that this is His work and His church. I know that living the gospel brings greater peace, joy, and unity that cannot be found in any other place. I know that Christ is my Savior and that through Him I can become a better person and find peace and forgiveness. There is no pain or sin too great to be healed by His sacrifice. Trust in Him. Know that I love yo all!! Be safe, be kind, be smart. And remember who yo are!

Love
Hermana Saunders

Week 41: in which Lorena gets baptized!!!!

Dear family and friends,

I apologize for the heart attack I gave to a few of you last week… 😬 Everything’s good here in Chile! Hermana Lange and I are working hard and enjoying every day we have together. I’m also bracing myself for the oncoming winter and the onslaught of bread, soups, and hot coco/Eco that come with it. (Eco is this really fantastic drink that’s kind of like coffee but made from wheat. I love it. 😁)

I hope everyone had a wonderful week! I especially hope that all of the moms were properly spoiled and appreciated for all of their love and hard work. The church released a really great video called “Life doesn’t come with a manual; it comes with a mother.” I’m so grateful for all of the moms who have worked so hard to love and teach their children. So happy (belated) Mother’s Day!!

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On Monday Lorena had her baptismal interview in the chapel. We walked her home and stopped by for a second to say hi to Gabriel and her son Martin. I asked Martin if he was excited for his mom to get baptized, and he said, “Yep! And I’m excited for my turn to come soon!” 😄😄  I love teaching families!!

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This weekend we had the privilege of being a part of Lorena’s baptism. It was incredible to watch Gabriel exercise the priesthood authority for the first time as he baptized Lorena. They were both so nervous! But everything turned out really great. I felt the Spirit so strong during the service, especially when Hermana Lange and I sang “Soy un hijo de Dios,” and the Spirit testified that yes, we are children of God, and He still guides us here so that one day we can all be with Him again. It is an incredible experience to be part of the work of salvation for the children of Heavenly Father.

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Miracles! Yesterday we finally found a set of twins that we contacted a couple weeks back, and they both accepted a baptismal date! They’re so great, although the lesson was interesting with their SIX dogs all over the place. On Tuesday, we found SEVEN news/THREE families!! (News is the name we give to the people we find, have a lesson with, and who want us to come back again. :D) We found all of them because we talk to everyone on the street and work to place an appointment for another day. It was evidence that when we work hard and apply the counsel of our leaders, God blesses our efforts, no matter how small they are. On Friday we had a lesson with Lesli, the friend of one of the young women in our ward. She’s one of the news we found on Tuesday, and she’s a wonderful girl who is honestly seeking to find the truth that will fill the empty space she feels in her life. Her mom is listening to the lessons as well, but she’s a little more hesitant to accept something different. I’m grateful for the little miracles I see in every day, and it’s been a blessing to see even more clearly God’s hand in every day.

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That’s it for this week! I hope everyone has a wonderful week full of miracles, both big and small. Remember that your Heavenly Father loves you and wants the best for you. Remember what the prophet Mosiah says in the Book of Mormon: “I would that you would remember the blessed and happy state of those who keep the commandments.” I’ve learned in the mission that the commandments are not a list of good ideas or a list of “Thou shalt nots” but a way of life that will bring lasting and true joy. They are the loving admonitions of a Heavenly Father to His children.

I love you all! Remember who you are!! Be safe, be kind, be grateful, be patient. And don’t forget to pray!

Love from Chile,
Hermana Saunders

P.S. I’m sorry I don’t have pics this week, but I’ll remember my camera next week for sure! 😛

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 24: in which the Hermanas say “No mas pan!”

Dearest friends and family,

It is impossible to avoid eating something that is served with every. single. meal. as a missionary. Both Hermana Chavez and I tried really hard this week to avoid the delicious white bread that is sold on every corner and eaten with every lunch. It just doesn’t work in Chile… But I’d really like to do something about the 20 pounds of “blessings” I’ve gained in the past 4 months… 😛

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Transfers!! Tomorrow I’ll move to Los Angeles. Whoo, packing… My new comp will be Hermana Nielson, who finished training Hermana Chavez! I’m a little nervous, but I know that transfers are inspired, and I look forward to getting to know a little more of the mission. The downside is that Los Angeles is HOT. I’m going to melt just a little bit…

We did a lot of contacting again this week, which meant a lot of time in the streets. The weather here is so weird. Honestly, if you don’t like the weather, just wait an hour. 😛 It’s almost always chilly in the mornings, but it could be anything in the afternoon. Anyway, the lessons we did have were pretty great. We met with Ricardo, whom we started teaching when I was with Hermana Bazaes. We’re reading the Book of Mormon with him, and it’s really cool to see his understanding expanding as he looks for answers to his own questions. The last time we read, Hermana Chavez made a comment about a verse, and he said, “Yeah, I really like that one too! I even marked it.” It was something really small, but it’s so cool to see how he’s beginning to “liken the scriptures” to himself and make positive changes in his life.

This e-mail is super short, but know that I love you all so very much. Trust in the Lord and have patience with His timing. He really does know when and how things need to happen, and He “loves to bless and teach you.” Remember who you are! Be safe, be smart, be kind.

Lots of love,
Hermana Saunders