First 6 months report & testimony

Howdy y’all!

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.

Te amo,

Elder Saunders

Semana 6: Estoy Saliendo

Howdy y’all!

This past week has FLOWN by. It’s been really nice because I’m ready as heck to get out into the field. I leave the MTC this coming Monday at 4:45 am! I’ll fly from SLC to Houston, and get there somewhere around 2. I’m SO PUMPED. It’s going to be such a cool experience, I’m smiling just typing this out.

The MTC has treated me well. At times I got sick of it, and it got sick of me, but it’s all good because in the end, it provided me with experiences that I will keep with me for the rest of my life. The Lord has allowed me to learn so much Spanish here. And also has taught me how to recognize the Spirit more than ever.

Something I learned that I want to share with y’all this week is just how important member missionary work is. Missionaries are the ones that teach repentance, baptize converts, and prepare for ordinances. Members + The Spirit literally do everything else. Take every opportunity you can to fellowship those around you and invite the Love of Christ into their lives.

I’d like to extend a special invitation to any of you reading this: Pray sometime this week SPECIFICALLY to see how you can better become a Disciple of the Savior. I promise that as you do so, and as you listen for an answer, you will be amazed to find out that the small changes in lifestyle lead to large improvements in happiness.

Welp, don’t have much else to say, nor do I have too much time. I have to finish packing 🙂 But I want you all to know that this mission has already changed me so much. I’m still the same old goob that makes stupid puns and gets cranky a lot, but I’ve really been able to realize just how real this Gospel is.

Love y’all! I’ll make sure to get some stories ready for next week when I’m finally out in the field! Email me if you have any questions!

Elder Saunders

Yes, that is Elder Zach Hair and me holding a picture of our dads when they served their missions together in New York City. Such a cool moment.

Friend Elder Danny Hatch.

Friend and awesome cross country runner Elder Benson.

Semana 5: The Alamo

Howdy y’all!

The MTC has been quite the experience. It feels like I’ve been here forever, but also that it’s been no time at all. This week has been especially uplifting for me, I’ve been able to see the Lord’s hand in my life sooo much.

Our room is called the Alamo because we are all either going to Texas, Mexico, or Salt Lake City (yeah, that last one is a bit of a stretch). Elders Pershing and Beus leave on Monday so we are all pretty sad about that. They’re both going to the Mexico Veracruz missions, and I know that they’ll do great. We’ve all been able to get really close and it has been a humbling experience to have so many role models around me as I begin this journey.

On the topic of humility, that has been the Christlike attribute my District has been working on this week. Now, you’re probably thinking like “Wow that must have been really hard for Elder Saunders” and it WAS. But as I studied and worked on becoming more like the Savior, He has truly made my weaknesses strengths. Here in the CCM, I’ve been able to do things that I know I otherwise couldn’t without the Lord’s help. Like memorize 2,500 Spanish words and 500 phrases in 5 weeks. Or 9 scriptures. Or about 20 grammar topics. Like, PEOPLE, I still sometimes forget my name tag walking out in the morning. I definitely know that this isn’t me doing all this work. But I’m putting in all the work I can, knowing that He will make it worth it.

Welp, I only have one week left here. To all of those still in school, stay in school. To any of you not, don’t be a fool. That… is what’s cool.

I have no clue, I just started rhyming while writing that, sorry.

Anyways, I want to leave you all with my testimony that Christ is the redeemer, He is why I’m here, and I’m grateful that he trusts me enough to wear His name on my chest every day. A scripture I memorized in Spanish this week was Moises (Moses) 1:39, I testify that God wants us to return to Him. Through our trials, we can do so.

Love y’all. Thanks for the support.

– Elder Saunders

Photos

Semana 4: La Iglesia

Hey everyone! Had a great week this week, don’t have too much time so I’ll keep this short.

It’s been an amazingly spiritual week. On Tuesday, Elder Christofferson came and spoke to us about the name of the church. It was a really cool message and I testify that if we use the correct name of the church, the Lord will be well pleased.

Another thing is that I was able to gain insight into a lot of questions about the Gospel that I previously didn’t understand. Especially on Wednesday, I was hit by an overwhelming feeling of purpose. I know that this work that I am doing is true. I’m so grateful for it!

Another cool thing that happened Wednesday was that I was able to host (welcome) Elder Lazerson! That was such a cool experience, I’m so proud of him for making it out here and I know he’ll have a great time here and in Mexico.

Sorry, like I said I don’t have tons of time. But I just want to let each of you know that I know without a shadow of a doubt that this church is true! The Lord has blessed me with so much strength these past few weeks, I’m pumped to get out to Houston. Love you all!

Elder Saunders

Here are some pics:

The one and only Elder Lewis.

The awesome Elder Eaquinto. He is off to Columbia, South Carolina and is going to rock it.

My awesome companion Elder McCaann.

Semana 3: Los Cambios

Howdy y’all! Wow this week went by fast. Once you get adjusted to the schedule, stuff starts flying by sooo quick. It’s been a roller coaster of a week.

On Monday, one of the Elders in our district went home. It came as a huge shock, and it was pretty difficult for all of us. But he’ll be coming back out in 6 months, so I know he’ll do great. With this change, our companionship got shifted around a bit. I used to be in a trio, but now it’s just me and Elder McCann. He’s such a fun dude, and he’s starting to get really good at Spanish.

Tuesday, we had a devotional with Elder Kearon of the Presidency of the Seventy. He is straight up hilarious, plus he has an English accent which made it all the more better.

Wednesdays are weird because we get new missionaries. Our zone didn’t get any this week, but Elder McCann and I DID have our second visit with our TRC person of interest Andrea. It was a good experience, and the Spirit was way strong. But it was nothing compared to

THURSDAY. What a great day. We had another appointment with Andrea. So for our TRC’s, they’re only in Spanish. Luckily I speak Spanish already so it’s not incredibly difficult or awkward. But man it was just so amazing on Thursday. We taught the Restoration, Elder McCann went ham compared to what he normally does. Then I recited the First Vision in perfect Spanish. It was super cool.

Friday. Lol it was literally yesterday and I can’t remember what we did. Sometimes that’s just how days are here.

Soo yeah it’s been a good week. Email me, I love hearing from friends and family.

Anyways thank you all, love you guys. Just want let you know that I have a testimony of this Gospel and of its greatness. El profeta Jose Smith restauro el sacerdocio y a traves del Libro de Mormon podemos sentir el Espiritu Santo. Estoy agradecido por la oportunidad para venir y ensenar la verdad a las personas de Houston.

Love you all.

Elder Saunders

Semana 2: El Don de Lenguas

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

SEP10  TX-HOUS

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.

Elder Saunders

Picture below from left to right:

Yo, Elder Johnson, Elder McCann, Elder Gibbons our District Leader, and Elder Burgoyne.

Semana 1: The Penguins of Madagascar

Hola!

I entered the MTC (CCM en Spanish) on Wednesday. It was a crazy experience, but eventually things settled down and I was able to meet my companions Elder Johnson y Elder McCann (that’s right, a trio of Elders in the MTC. It’s dope). Both of them are so great, they love the Gospel and I’m excited for what the next 5.5 weeks have in store for todos de nosotros. If you didn’t know, I LOVE Spanish. I know a decent amount, but I just love the people and how it sounds. It has so far been pretty easy to get everything down, and I’m just getting started! I’m honestly pumped to see how it all turns out by the end of my 6 weeks here.

Elder Johnson is from Riverton, Utah. He’s coming to Houston South with me which is exciting. He’s a real chill dude and he is a really hard worker. We agree on a lot of things which really helps our dynamic.

Elder McCann is from Spanish Fork, Utah. He’s super outgoing and he also works really hard to get the language down. He’s super cool and is pretty funny too. He’s supposed to be at the Mexico MTC because he is going to the Mexico Pueblo North mission, but his VISA is delayed. I’ve been praying that they can get it figured out because I want him to be able to go where he was assigned, without having to get reassigned somewhere.

Mis companeros y yo somos the Penguins of Madgascar. McCann is Skipper, our fearless leader. Johnson is Rico, the one that is the spirit of the team. And I’m Private, the small and strange one. Not too sure why, but one of the guys in our district called me Private and then it all started from there. Our Zone Leader literally calls us by our penguin names.

Our district is also pretty awesome. We are all hard at work learning the language and how to preach the Gospel. I attached a bunch of pics below.

I love this Gospel, I love this work, I know it is true! As missionaries, we invite others to come unto Christ. I invite you all unto Christ. Evaluate how you can better invite the Spirit into your life. One thing I tried to do this summer was listen to General Conference talks instead of loud music in the car. That’s something that helped me feel a lot more spiritual. Whatever it is, I promise that if you commit to it, the Lord will grant you blessings. Thank you all for the prayers of support, I can feel them. So far it’s been easy, but I know that times will get difficult.

Love you all!!

– Elder Saunders

Pics

1- The view from my classroom.

We’re on the top (6th) floor of T4, one of the new buildings!

2- Some of the elders in the district. From left to right, it’s Elder McCann, Elder Richins, Elder Merkley, me, and Elder Johnson.

3- With my best friends Elder Spencer (headed to New Jersey) and Elder Harris (headed to Calgary Canada)

4- Another one with Elder Harris

5- Elder McCann after realizing he got the wrong hot pocket from the vending machine

6- Also Elder McCann falling out of his chair after saying repentance wrong in Spanish. For the 500th time. (but he’s got it down now!)