This email is going to be a unique one. I thought that it would be great to send out a report from the first 6 months of my mission. Just going over a lot of the great experiences I’ve had, blessings I have seen, trials I have overcome. So here is a summary of the past 6 months as a Missionary.
Transfer 1 – High School 2.0
Provo Missionary Training Center (August 1st, 2018 – September 9th, 2018)
Companion(s): Elder Andrew McCann, Elder Grant Johnson
Whew, the MTC feels like forever ago. Now looking back, being at the Provo Missionary Training center was a great experience. The best “real life” way to describe it is… It’s basically high school. The whole schedule, cafetería, drama, immaturity, and messing around is a lot like high school. When I first got to the MTC, I was put in a trio with Elders McCann and Johnson. Elder McCann is currently in the Puebla México North mission, and Elder Johnson is (spoiler alert) actually here in the same district as me here in Houston! The first couple of weeks there went by really slow. Just getting used to missionary life and the whole schedule. After 2 weeks, our trio got split up because one of the Elders in our district went home. Elder McCann and I struggled a lot to get along for the rest of the stay. I felt like an outsider because I tried to be obedient as best as I could. I learned a lot about the importance of obedience in the MTC. I messed up my shoulder playing basketball one day, and had to go to physical therapy for a couple weeks, which was a bummer. By the time I left the MTC, my Spanish was alright. I could teach the basics of all the missionary lessons. And I wanted to get out of there bad by Week 5. But it was a good experience.
Best moment: Heart-to-heart with Elder McCann. After a particularly hard day, I sat down with my companion and asked him this simple question: “Why are you here on a mission?” At first he seemed offended, but as I answered the question myself, we both started to tear up. I wanted him to succeed so bad, but it just seemed like he was working against himself. I told him the Savior loved him and NEEEDED him here on the mission. It ended with a hug and going back to work on Spanish. Recently, Elder McCann and I were emailing back and forth. He is serving in the Mexico Puebla North mission, and he just had his sixth baptism.
Hardest Trial: Being obedient. It’s very easy to fall into the trap that because everyone else isn’t doing it, you don’t have to either. That is a lie from Satan. Obedience is of the upmost importance, even in the MTC. It is really hard, and I struggled a ton with balancing being obedient with being liked by my roommates. What I discovered is that there is no balance: “Fear God more than man” is the simple yet sufficient solution to the dilemma.
Transfer 2 – Being Trained Part I
Houston 2nd Ward (September 10th, 2018 – October 21st, 2018)
Companion: Elder Logan Stites
When I hopped off the plane in Houston, I thought I was going to die of the humidity. That night, I met my trainer Elder Stites. What a legend. I love that man so much, he’s one of my best friends. We had so many fun times, a lot of fighting against the forces of evil, and tons of spreading the Gospel of Christ.
Best moment: Elder Holland. Elder Holland came and spoke to all 3 of the Houston missions. We were able to look him in the eyes, shake his hand, and introduce ourselves. His eyes pierced my soul, and I learned that he truly is a servant of the Lord. It was an amazing experience, I am grateful for the impact his words have had on me since.
Hardest trial: Adjustment. At first I thought I was doing fine, but after about 2 weeks I felt really alone. I struggled with a lot of dark thoughts and wanting to go home. I felt thrust into a different country: that’s basically what my area is. It’s heavily Hispanic, even the stores and everything are in Spanish. Even though I was still in the United States, the new environment, plus new lifestyle of missionary work, really threw me for a loop.
Transfer 3 – Being Trained Part II
Houston 2nd Ward (October 22nd, 2018 – December 2nd, 2018)
Companion(s): Elder Logan Stites, Elder Isaac Ledezma, Elder Dayton Underwood
What a blur. I remember that on Halloween we had district council but it was raining really hard so when Elder Stites and I got there, we were totally soaked in our suits. So we didn’t wear socks or shoes for that district council. That district council basically described the rest of the transfer. We went through a really hard time because of unfortunate circumstances that I shouldn’t get into. But Elder Stites and I stuck together and by the time he left the area, we were like brothers. I spent the last 2 weeks of the transfer in a trio with the other Elders of my ward. It was interesting to say the least.
Best moment: Juan Carlos. When I was with the South Elders for 2 weeks, we met this one kid from Colombia named Juan Carlos. He was living with a member for a few months to learn English here in the United States. This kid was golden, he is 18 years old so we were just like best friends. Then he got baptized like a few weeks after we met him. It was fire.
Hardest trial: Elder Stites’ emergency transfer. Whew what a struggle. It was hard to see my trainer leave the area early because of some external problems that were faced. I know that is really vague, but just know that the forces of Satan are constantly attacking us, and luckily Elder Stites’ was so strong that he fought them straight on for several weeks.
Transfer 4 – Training Part I
Houston 2nd Ward (December 3rd, 2018 – January 13th, 2019)
Companion: Elder Garrett Freebourn
Dang this transfer was difficult. I was called to train a new missionary right after training. At very first, I was excited; soon that excitement turned to being overwhelmed by the calling. I struggled to train Elder Freebourn. I didn’t have enough confidence in myself to help him build up his own confidence. I learned to rely heavily on the Lord during this time. Prayer was my best friend. Fortunately, things began to clear up as I was able to realize my purpose as a trainer and missionary more and more.
Best moment: Christmas Conference. At Christmas Conference, we got to listen to amazing talks by President Guthrie’s mission president and companion from when HE served his mission in Madrid Spain 20 years ago. We watched The Best 2 Years, the GOAT. We reenacted the nativity which was tacky but it’s all good. I ate 2 full steaks that were the best steaks ever. And we received our Christmas packages from our families! It was such a fun time, and made me feel a lot better in a season that was hard.
Best moment pt 2: Christmas calls with family. I loved being able to talk with my family again for the first time in months. It went way too fast and I am pumped for May when I will be able to talk to them again 😀
Hardest trial: The car accident. Three hours before the Perdomo family was supposed to be baptized, the dad’s brother (who is a member of the ward and was actually going to be the one performing the ordinance) and his wife were in a car accident. They got rear-ended and their car was totaled. It left them decently injured but really shaken up. The baptism was canceled last minute. That really hit me hard. It sent me into a tailspin that led to a lot of anxiety about things going wrong. Now looking back, I’m really glad I was able to learn patience and trust in the Lord through this trial.
Transfer 5 – Training Part II
Houston 2nd Ward (January 14th, 2019 – February 24th, 2019)
Companion: Elder Garrett Freebourn
Here we are. As of today (February 11th), there are two weeks left in this transfer. This transfer has been the best so far. A lot of things have been going right, and Elder Freebourn has learned so much this transfer.
Best moment: The Perdomo’s baptism. This baptism was such a special experience and brought me so much joy. I love the Perdomo family. When their baptism got delayed as I described above, it really made me worry. But the wait was worth it: seeing this family be baptized was such a spiritual witness for me that the Lord has a plan for me in this work of His.
Hardest trial: Being diligent. I’ll admit, this transfer I have always been exhausted biking for 6 months straight has taken a little chunk out of me. But at least I can now appreciate a car when I get one! But because I have been tired and sick a good amount, we haven’t been able to work as much. Yesterday we actually had a really hard-working day, and I am going to strive from now on to always have days like that. I know the Lord will give me strength to do what He needs me to do.
Wow thanks for making it this far. Hopefully you have had a tiny bit of insight into some of the experiences I’ve been able to have during these amazing months. I’d like to close by writing out part of my testimony.
I bear witness of Jesus Christ. He is our Lord and Savior. He indeed came to this earth, taught His gospel, established His church, and performed many miracles. Out here in the mission, I have developed a strong witness of His Atonement. I know now without a shadow of a doubt that he suffered, bled, and died for our sins and pains. As I proclaim His name, I marvel at just how far His hand extends to every soul in existence. Through Him, we are able to be made clean again. Through His Prophets that He has called, we are able to know the truth of His gospel. I have had my doubts, but as I have looked unto Him in every thought, those doubts have been swept away and I have learned to not fear. I testify that Joseph Smith was called by God to restore these truths. There is only one true church on the earth today: that is The Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints. I love this all. I am grateful for the opportunity to represent my Savior, and I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
This week was great! It was also pretty cool because my trainer Elder Stites was able to be with us for a few days this week. It was nice to have him back, and I’m pumped for what he will be doing after the mission. Anyways, you’ll notice I’m taking a different format for my weekly email this week. I know it seems extra, but here is an account of each day of this week. Hopefully this will help you all see the wonderful joy my mission has brought me.
Monday: After P-Day ended, we tried to get out working as quickly as possible. We went to a nearby complex to try by a few people. As we were walking towards the first door we were going to knock, a less active family whom I had never met before despite being in this area my whole mission, two people came up behind us. As we were walking, the Spirit said “Yo dude, those are the people you are looking for” SO I turn around and sent it. Turns out it was! They kindly let us into their homes and we were able to share a spiritual Thought with them. We will be working on reactivating them going forward! We were able to go over to a members place after and have a super bomb Noche de Hogar (Family Home Evening) with tons of members and also the Perdomo who were baptized this last Thursday (see below). I shared a message about Ether 12:27 which I guess made sense. But it was a good night! We ate Heavenly taquitos and chocolate cake. We also manages to setup some other appointments for later in the week.
Tuesday: We helped out with this service for setting up for the Houston Marathon. I set up toooons of chairs. SIDENOTE: My mission is participating in a pilot where, starting February, each companionship is required to “prestar”-(sorry I forgot the English word for it)- 10 hours of service each week. So that’ll be really cool to start doing here soon. We are scouring for opportunities to begin regular service. Anyways, Tuesday I also had a doctors appointment that took up a good chunk of the day.
Wednesday: Réunion with Elder Stites, my trainer and previous companion! Had some fun re-destroying our area together. We were able to knock a door and immediately have it lead to teaching somebody new. Which doesn’t happen too often. And that was the VERY first door we knocked that day. #milagros
Thursday: The Perdomo were baptized! It was such an amazing experience, they have been being taught for over a year now. They were supposed to be baptized a month ago, but there was a car accident just hours before their baptism, and as a result it got moved to the 17th of January. But what a cool experience. They’ve been through so much in the past few years, and seeing them enter the waters of baptism brought me soooo much joy. For any of you reading this that are considering serving a mission, DO IT FOR THE BAPTISMS. You’ll understand what I mean when it happens, and you’ll thank me later.
Friday: We tried to follow-up with some of our contacts without a lot of success but that’s how the work goes. I did get to eat some good McDonald’s chicken nuggets and pedal a bike that only had one pedal. My companion’s pedal fell off his bike rest in peace #rip.
Saturday: I was able to participate in an MLK March. I even got a certificate for it. No for real, we did some service helping with Houston’s MLK Honorary Children’s March. It was a great experience, I love how deep the culture is here. No matter what race, God loves all of his children the same. That was the main message, and boy is it true. The rest of the day we got schwhacked (pronounced shh-whack-d, basically means we got wrecked) by bike problems so it was super hard to be productive. Sometimes, it do be like that.
Sunday: The Perdomo’s were confirmed. I was able to stand in the circle for all 3, and whew was the Spirit strong. What a baller family, I can’t wait to be with them when they take out their endowments and are sealed as a family next year.
This week, I was able to have the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th baptisms of my mission. Words cannot describe how grateful I am for the opportunity to serve a mission. It has changed who I am for the better in almost 6 months. I know that mission will benefit me for the rest of my life. As I’m writing this, the hymn “I Need Thee Every Hour” comes to mind. We all depend on the Savior so much. Where some might see that dependence as a burden, I have been blessed to recognize it as hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a bright future despite the darkness that increasingly looms over us.
Family and friends, no matter how you feel right now, please look to the light of Christ. Realize what he has done for you. I BEG of you. With all my heart, I tell you that THERE IS HOPE IN HIM. I love you all, and may hope carry us through to brighter days. Amen.
– Perdomo’s baptism. The one kneeling in white is Hermano Fernández, Fredy Perdomo Sr’s brother that baptized them.
– RIP Elder Freebourn’s bike pedal
– Just your boy looking fly in downtown Houston. This was Tuesday after doing the service for the Houston Marathon. PC: Elder Freebourn
Enjoying some comida with awesome members and missionaries:
Hey y’all! It’s been a great week! I’ve been able to really start getting good at Español. I love my district, they’re all super fun. We’ve been able to learn a lot this past week and a half. It’s been a really spiritual and amazing experience.
Something awesome that happened this past week was that one of the sisters in my district asked for a blessing of comfort so one of the elders Elder Merkley gave her a blessing and the spirit was so strong. We all knew that this is where we were supposed to be.
As we were practicing the Spanish Basic Core that we are supposed to learn the first 10 days at the MTC, we had to do a mock lesson with one of our teachers. Usually how this goes is that I have to say most of the stuff, then my companions like only say a couple lines because they’re not super confident with the language yet. But this lesson was way different. We all were speaking so well and the spirit was amazing. It was so cool to see the gift of tounges, el don de lenguas. I’ve memorized the First Vision, the Missionary Purpose, the Baptismal Invitation, and Moroni 10:4-5 all in Spanish! I’m amazed how much the holy spirit has helped me in progressing. I testify that as you work hard to achieve the goals you set, you will receive His help. This has been KEY this past week for me. Through all the trials I’ve faced, He is always there to help me reach my full potential.
My first role-play teaching appointment called a TRC is on Monday. We’re hoping it goes great, I’m excited to meet our person of interest. Also for any of you missionaries learning languages, SYL makes all the difference. You’ll know what I mean once you get in to the MTC. Don’t think you’re too cool or know enough of your language to speak in English. Even if you’re fluent, you can always improve so that you can communicate clearly. Also, be OBEDIENT. Seriously, you won’t believe how much trouble some people have with this. It’s really unfortunate. Have fun, but more importantly have the spirit.
For anyone that wants to send me packages, I still have 4 weeks to endure and they literally make the week sooo much better. My MTC mailbox address is
Elder Carson David Saunders
2005 N 900 E Unit 236
Provo UT 84602
Also, feel free to email me at any time throughout the week. Although I will receive and read your emails I can’t respond until my P-Day which is Saturday from 6 am to 6 pm. Thank you all for the support and love and prayers. I love you all, I know this is where I’m supposed to be.
Picture below from left to right:
Yo, Elder Johnson, Elder McCann, Elder Gibbons our District Leader, and Elder Burgoyne.