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

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Dear family and friends,

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

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

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

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

Love,
Hermana Saunders

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Week 72: in which we “attack” Carahue

Dear family and friends,

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

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

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

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

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Wboard Carahue

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

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

I hope you all have a wonderful week! May you have a truly special Christmas. 😊🎄🌟

Love,
Hermana Saunders

Week 70: in which we’re all together again

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Dear friends and family,

This week we had the mission Christmas devotional, in which all 170-something missionaries and our leaders met together in Los Àngeles (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. 😊😊  It was also wonderful to see several friends from the mission. I get to work with such great people, de verdad. ❤

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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! 😄

Millaray the little missionary

In the lesson with Scarlett, she said something I found very profound: In regards to doing something scary or very different, she said, “You don’t leave the comfort zone; it expands as you take steps forward.” We can apply that to whatever part of life. The great thing about life is that it’s flexible; although at first change is hard, it becomes easier because God gives us more strength to keep moving forward. I loved that thought.

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On Friday, it was our turn for a zone “attack”! 😀 We met together in the plaza in Cunco and did the same activity as before. In two hours, we received 52 references!! 😀 Hermana Milne and I are so excited and working hard to contact each one of them, and I can feel that there are many miracles waiting for us in the lists of names.

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I love being a missionary. It’s such a privilege to work with Heavenly Father in the work of salvation for His children. I’ve come to really feel that these people are my brothers and sisters. We are God’s children, and He’s always aware of our needs, triumphs, and struggles. He’ll never leave us to fend for ourselves–unless we deliberately choose to walk a different path.

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I hope you all have a wonderful week! As you prepare for Christmas this year, think of what the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ has meant for your life. I love you all!!

I cut my hair

Love,
Hernana Saunders

Week 69: in which we bring Thanksgiving to Chile

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Dear family and friends,

This week I am grateful for many things, not the least of which is my amazing, sweet companion and the many miracles of this week. I wanted to share a few of the miracles from this week:

  1. My companion had lost her wallet, and we were worried because it had a few official documents in it as well as money. But we went to the cyber one day to actualizar referencias, and the owner said someone had turned it in to him! Later, on the way home a different day, we ran into the couple that found it and had a nice chat with them. They agreed to listen to us another day. 😁
  2. On Saturday, we met with an investigator, Hermana Tila, and her 16-year-old daughter, Javiera. They’re passing through some really rough family problems and have a lot of questions. It was wonderful to be able to share a little about the Plan of Salvation and the Atonement with them, and when we invited Javiera to go to church, she accepted immediately. On Sunday morning she wasn’t feeling very well, but she got up and went anyway. She says that she’s looking for real peace and healing, and I know she’ll be able to find it with the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
  3. Javiera, Estefania, Scarlett, AND Millaray all went to church!! Millaray always goes with her family, but we were a little more worried about the other three. But a few days before Estefania had said, “No matter what happens, I’m going, even if I go alone.” And Scarlett brought a friend, Alejandro, who also enjoyed church! On Friday Scarlett had several questions about tithing, and on Sunday all of sacrament meeting was about commandments and tithing. She was amazed to find her answer so quickly and clearly, and she felt great in church. I know it will make a difference in her week. Now just needs to act according to the other answers she’s been given!

This past Monday we celebrated Thanksgiving early with our own dinner. 🦃 Our turkey was chicken patties, I made some pretty great mashed potatoes (if I do say so myself 😎), and we boiled some beans and corn. The only thing that was missing was the traditional Saunders pies, but it really was fun to put everything together together, and it was nice to kinda have Thanksgiving. We even had left-overs! 😀

On Wednesday we had another zone “attack” in Nueva Imperial, another sector close by. The weather was fantastic, and we had a lot of fun inviting everyone who passed by to listen for a couple minutes about the Book of Mormon and the Restoration. At the end of about 2 hours, 95 people had said they wanted to hear more!! It was so cool. At one point, a man stopped by the table and frowned at the pamphlets about Joseph Smith. I thought, “Chuta, he’s going to argue how we worship this “Joe Smith” and who knows what else.” But as he talked with the Hatches, a missionary couple who are in charge of these activities, they explained about Joseph Smith and the restoration with simple and honest testimonies in the Spanish they knew. During the conversation the man’s face changed, and he said, “Yeah, okay. I’d like to hear more.” Even if he only listens a couple times or even just once, it was incredible to see how the Hatches’ soft answers turned away his wrath (Proverbs 15:1).

The miracles continue in this pueblito in Chile. The mission is a wonderful experience, and it’s really changed my life because I’ve allowed it change me. I’m so grateful for every day that I have to share my testimony of my Savior Jesus Christ and of His great love and mercy. There is nothing else that could bring me such joy and satisfaction than to see others allowing Him to change them as well. Thank you for all your love and support that has made me the person I am today. I love you all and hope you have a wonderful week!

Love from Chile,
Hermana Saunders

P.S. Look up the Light the World initiative that the church is heading. It`s fantastic! 😀  https://www.mormon.org/spa/navidad/25-maneras-25-dias [Note: And here’s the English link, too. — AnnMarie]

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 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 20: In which Hermana Saunders builds a temple

Dear friends and family,

I’ve had some really great moments this week. On Wednesday the entire mission got together for our Christmas devotional, and it was fantastic! We had a really beautiful musical devotional, and this time it was my turn to be part of the audience and enjoy the magic of the music. (It’s difficult to sing with a cold. Stupid change of weather. But I’m better now. 🙂 ) We were gone all day because the chapel where we met was two hours away. We played Mafia in the bus on the way there and back. It was fun. 😀

On Wednesday I learned that when we set a goal with faith and do our best to reach it, Heavenly Father will help us meet it. During daily planning on Tuesday, we couldn’t confirm any appointments for Wednesday because we didn’t know what time we would get home. But I wanted to make a goal of at least one referral received because even if we weren’t in our sector, we could receive a phone call or one from the office. As we were walking to our apartment from the bus stop, we received a call from a member in Maquehue, who had a reference for us! We wrote down the reference and were able to make an appointment for later this week. I know that Heavenly Father saw our faith and that when we do all we can to reach a worthy goal, Heavenly Father does His part too.

We spent a lot of time contacting, and we met a few really great prospective investigators. One is Daphne; we talked with her in the street and set an appointment for later this week! She’s very interested and remembers the missionaries passing by a few times when she was much younger.

This week was also evidence that God can use what seems to be an accident to work miracles. We’ve been looking for and working with part-member families, especially those of less-actives. Due to a mix-up of streets on Thursday, we found a sister who has been less-active for many years because she can’t walk to the church. Miracle! Her husband isn’t a member, but two of her grandchildren recently were baptized in a different ward, and we’re going to keep visiting her and her family.

Today we had an activity with the entire zone, all 22 missionaries. We built cookie houses, and in true missionary fashion, every team built a temple. 😛 But only ours had “Holiness to the Lord” on it. 😉

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Every day I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this great work. I’m grateful that God sees all of our efforts and is always at my side as I sometimes stumble in my way. I love the quote, “Christ doesn’t make up the difference; He IS the difference.” Grace is such a marvelous gift, and I love this holiday to celebrate the reason I rejoice.

Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope you’ll remember the reason why the angels came with “good tidings of great joy.” Through Christ we have joy, peace, and “hope for a better world.” I love you all!

Love,
Hermana Saunders