Sunday, September 27, 2015

Letter to Mom and Dad :) Sept 21, 2015

I asked my mom and dad to share a few things from my email to them in hopes that maybe it might help someone.

" I am doing well. It's been crazy with trying to teach people. Most of the people here are nice, but the most common phrase is: 'I appreciate y'all but I've been a baptist for 40 years. It is always 40 years-never 30, 20, or 10. There was a girl who had to be at most, 25. She still said 40. Maybe it's like dog years or something. 

It is also strange because all the rich houses won't hear you out. They will turn you away as soon as they see you. The most success we have is at the small apartments. I figure it's because they have nothing to lose. Most of them have hit rock bottom. Even if they don't need another religion, they just want someone to talk to that won't try and sell them drugs. They are the most humble and most prepared by far, to hear us. It's strange to be at the other end. To be in these small apartments and look through the eyes of others. You start to appreciate them more and care for them. You are sad when people won't hear you out. I've become a lot more selfless.

Let me tell you, most people here let their dogs run free. Some of the dogs are mean and I've almost been bitten a couple of times. Most people love us and like that we are giving away 2 years to devote to Christ and his teachings. They love us, but not our faith. 

The football games here are huge on Fridays. It is a ghost town because everyone goes to the games and the stadiums. Even a small town like Orange are big. 

It is actually getting harder to spell words because here they slur a lot of words. Some words I have to change because I forgot how to spell them now. Like the word 'stadium' It took me a good 5 minutes to spell even with spell check. 

Got to go,
Love, Andrew

Also, here is the last picture I  took at the MTC in Provo of the elders in my district in at the Provo Temple. Notice the blue tint-isn't that awesome, mom? 
Elder Taylor, Elder Andrew,(going to Texas Houston East) Elder Richey, Elder Stout ( going to Oklahoma) Elder Saunders, Elder Dabb also going to T.H.E. mission.

One week in the mission! Sept 21, 2015

So this was my first week here in Orange, Texas and let me tell you, it was different. I have never talked to so many people in my life. I have met a lot of strange, mean, kind people in my life here and I will get to those experiences later.

So to start out, the food here is so goood. The members feed us almost every day here and they are so kind. I have had taco's that were the best tacos ever! I had some roast. Just yesterday, I had this gourmet thing(I forgot the name) that was rolled up and stuffed. Then it was cooked and served with potatoes. The couple that made the dinner was from Costa Rica. I also had Cajun shrimp and corn. Probably the best shrimp and corn of my life. Everything here is so good and my companion and I had to start running a mile a day to not get too fat. 

There is also a language here. I have been taught some new words like y'all  which means you. I have been taught 'finna' or 'fixin' which means going to. Like I'm finna go shoppin or I'm fixin to work. There are more words but they are Cajun and thats just some strange stuff that no one understands. It's like ma n pa me bout da stor by da crek. Very hard to understand.

Now for the people, over here it is a melting pot. There are so many different kinds of people with different kinds of personalities. One guy we taught on Thursday, we knock on his door and he come out and first thing he's said is, "Y'all going to heaven?" My companion said Yeah. He said, "No y'all ain't." So we confused and start to teach him and he stops us and begins to teach us about the baptist church. He also say how y'all mormons are wrong and how we lead people away. Now I stand up to him and says how we don't take away from the Bible, it just confirms it. Now, he be hard in his heart. He tells me how wrong we are and don't believe in Christ and how we need to change. We's go on and tell him about repentance and he don't believe in it. Says that Christ died for us but we don't need to repent of our sins. We only repent if we change faiths. He goes on and on and on. I can't write what else he said cause it is long and probably not appropriate. We talked with him about 30 minutes before we walked away. He gave us an anti-mormon pamplet. I read a page and it is full of lies. Then me companion takes it and rips it up. We later found out that he is a Baptist priest and man those guys are rough. Now, I will talk normal now but I just wanted y'all to know what we sound like down here. 

The second guy was a guy we taught a lesson to and he was full Cajun. I could not understand a word he said and somehow we answered all his questions and taught him. By the end of the lesson, the only words I understood were the last ones which were 'bye now, y'all be safe now, y'all hear?"

If there is one thing I've had to learn is to talk to every person. We have been tracting a lot and it is hard not to judge people. Before I didn't think I judged people but let me tell you, when y'all tryin to teach people and you see a big guy with tattoo's and he has a beer in one hand and a smoke in the other, it is hard not to pass him up. There was this one girl when were's tractin in this apartments and I see's her and she is smoking on the top floor. I was going to pass her up and my companion says to me, 'Hey, lets see her." So we taught her and she shared a story of how people see her and then passes her because they judge her. We ended up teachin her and we got a return appointment for this week. Now I have tried to change how I think and change me as a whole. Let me tell you, it isn't easy having people shut doors on you or tell y'all that your going to burn when we die, but I can testify to you that it is worth it when you can teach a person going through a hard time and they start to change right before your eyes and listen to you. Most of the people here are great. They love Christ and will hear you out even if they won't convert. My love has grown and just in these past days, I have changed.

Now, there is more but we have a lot to do and we are still going to hit some golf balls over the bayou. I've been busy and will stay that way for two. Love y'all. Elder Andrew Saunders

Also, I had my first baptism on Saturday. We have two more people with a date, and one of them is a deacon in the Baptist church (which is like a first counselor). The other is a great guy who has a tobacco addition. It is funny, I also met a guy who has 3 wives. I thought it was a joke but he brings them out and calls them his wives and they don't even flinch, so I'm pretty sure its the truth.
Sent by a member in Orange Texas-Elder Saunders, Elder Lawrence, Elder Knebel, Elder Wood.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

I'm here Mom and Dad!- 1st email in the mission field-Orange, TX

Tues. Sept 15, 2015

In Elder Saunders words:
" So you know how I said I wouldn't be able to talk this week? Well, I was wrong because I didn't know my companion was going to be so chill. His name is Elder Knebel and he is a stud. Honestly, the perfect fit! My first area is in Orange, which is about 2 hours away from our mission home and about 15 minutes from Louisiana. My area is split because we have 2 other companionships, so I honestly get the back roads, no city whatsoever. 

I haven't really done much cause I just got here, but I did go to the store and let me tell you it is different! People will ignore you, they will avoid you, even if you say 'hi' , the best you are going to get is a mumbled hello. That is just some of the people, the others are super friendly. One guy came up to us and said how much he respected us, not our faith but us. He said he talks to missionaries all the time but he won't get converted. We talked with him for a while and somehow Elder Knebel got his address and phone number. The apartments are okay. It's not fancy by any means, cause y'all :) know we live in a small town. Also, everyone here has thee best accent. You don't find that in the city, only in small town back roads. 

So far we are teaching an investigator today and we have a baptism on Saturday. Sometime this week we are going to a BBQ thing. I don't know much about it, but when we were helping a member move his bed, he mentioned it. 

Oh  ya, I forgot to tell you how beautiful it is down here. There are trees everywhere! It almost looks like Oregon! Everything is green and I mean everything. The landscaping is amazing and looks so great, especially in Kingwood. Um, the humidity is bad! When I took a shower today I dried off, then dried off, then I gave up because I couldn't get dry. Also I found one of gods greatest gifts and its air conditioners. We have like 4 in our apartment and it still isn't enough. It is so hot out here, you are honestly soaked all day whether it is rain or sweat. But, I like it here. I'm kinda overwhelmed, but I can get through it. 

We have a pretty nice car that we jam music through. Elder Knebel said that David Archeletta's sister is coming to my mission in November so that's kinda cool. I sleep like a baby. It felt really good to sleep after sleeping for two hours the day before. I don't really have much to say so see y'all next week. Oh yeah, they pronounce my name Elder Saundaas. No 'R's in Texas-Love, Elder Saunders
All the new missionaries that came into T.H.E. mission Sept 14 2015

Mission President Elder and Sister Drake and Elder Andrew Saunders
Elder Saunders and his new trainer, Elder Knebel
my first baptism with Elder Knebel, Orange, Texas Sept 18, 2015

Houston-they have landed! Sept 14, 2015

Elder Saunders up early riding the front runner to SLC airport and then on to T,H.E.
Elder Taylor (just chilling) and Elder Andrew singing at 3:30 in the morning-riding the front runner to T.H.E. mission

Houston, They Have Landed!....
Elder Andrew and Elder Saunders in Houston Airport. Notice: How sweet that he met an Elder Andrew and my elder is Elder Andrew Saunders. Those names go great together......

Life at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah Sept 2-13 2015

Elder Saunders finally sent photo's of the MTC in Provo, Utah. The pictures came with no information and so detective mom zeroed in on the name tags. I think I did pretty good for not knowing anything-Here, you decide:
Elder Saunders wearing his pink panda tie at MTC (easy one)
Elder Saunders' District at the MTC-back row L-R - Elder Taylor, Elder Andrew, Elder Saunders,and Elder Saunders and for the Sisters- Sister Holley in front, Sister Trotter, Sister Nash, Sister Balantyne
Elder Richey and Elder Stout in his MTC district-headed to Oklahoma City

Elder Saunders of course very pleased with himself because he figured out his camera. Apparently he is a little taller than the top bunk
Elder Saunders and his MTC companion, Elder Dabbs both going to Texas Houston East
Elder Taylor in his dorm going to Texas Houston East

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Our first email!! What a glorious day! Sept 7, 2015

In Elder Saunders words:

" I'm not going to lie, the first day I felt like I was in spirit prison. They like to lay it on you and I actually had thoughts that I couldn't do it. Then came Sunday. Sunday is amazing! It is so spiritual and I grew so much in faith. We study for about 12 hours a day and my companion is Elder Dabb. He is petty cool and knows a lot of things because he did splits with the missionaries, A LOT, but I love him. We also have Elder Stout, Elder Richey, Elder Taylor, and Elder Andrew. I love them all so much. We bonded so quickly and honestly when we go back to our dorm, we make each other laugh so much. It is so fun and I am blessed to have them. Now back to the Actual class, they get boring. I've noticed that since I stutter, I can't speak the same way that everyone else can, but that's good. I speak from the heart and they started to call me the Spiritual Giant. Honestly I love it here. My testimony is growing and we have to say about 14 prayers a day and sing about 7 a day. It has gotten me so close to God. I can feel his love. While you may think this immature lad won't change, I can tell you that he has. I love this church. I love the members. I love all of you and while you pray for me, I will pray for you. I will leave you with a promise that when you say your prayers, say them with all your might, mind and strength. . If you do this, I can guarantee you that not only will he answer your prayers, he will stay with you and you will experience the love that he has for you. I love you all so much and miss you. My next P-day is in the mission field because we leave on Monday, so it might be two weeks before I can write. I miss talking to my old friends, but I know I will see you all again. Much love from Elder Saunders

So I got more time, so I'll go in depth. ( note from his mother transcribing this-our email was about 7 lines-go figure :)
Elder Stout, I call him Elder Trout. He and Elder Richey (AKA Elder Ricky) are going to OKC. Then we have Elder Taylor who we call the blue chair guy because of the comments he makes which actually have to do with Elder Andrew. We call Elder Andrew, Elder Charming because Elder Taylor said that during class, his charm was rubbing off on him. I am Elder Sandstorm because Elder Andrew when he first met me, called me Sandstrum and Elder Stout heard that wrong. So that's us. The other missionaries are so cool and one can bark exactly like a dog. We honestly make new friends every day and I am getting pretty popular down here ;) We study so much and it has helped. We taught investigators already down here and me and Elder Dabbs are a super combo. All the teachers say that we sound like seasoned missionaries. The investigators run out of questions to ask us because we answer them so well. Now, I may sound cocky, but Ammon in the Book of Mormon said, "I boast not in my own strength, but in the strength of the Lord." We have found so much success and when we teach, both of us have words that flow out of our mouths. Just two days ago, I came up with an analogy about golf and sins. It helped the investigator so much, he started to cry. I never planned to say that and I have no idea where those words came from.  On another note, I love the food down here and have gained weight. Like a lot of weight, lol. I now run around the track for exercise time, just so I can regain my holy form :)  We watched a video by David Bednar called "The Character of Christ" He gave the talk during Christmas in the MTC. Let me tell you he changed a tall, fat elder named Saunders and he made him cry, laugh, and change his life. I have a whole different outlook on life. I love you all and my next P-Day will probably be in two weeks, cause we leave next Monday, so see you in two.
Elder Saunders

Sunday, September 6, 2015

On his way to the MTC...

One of the hardest things we have ever had to do is to send him off to the MTC. We were in such shock at sending him that we didnt get a famous send off picture. As Dad described it (ok, use your imagination here) it was as a light shone down on Andrew and he walked away chatting with his escort. In that moment we knew he would be okay.

We did get pictures of the lunch that Elder Saunders' brother in law, Ben, treated us all to before he went to the Missionary Training Center. Andrew has a great love for his sisters, Mollie and Disney. They have both been there for him all through his life. As a bonus he was blessed with two brother-in-laws, Ben and Andrew (yes, another Andrew so we started calling Elder Saunders, Drew) that have always included him in their lives and for that we are grateful. And as a double bonus Elder Saunders has 3 nephews, Flynn, Tuck, and Cache and one niece, Everlie. It was hard for him to leave us all. We are so proud of him and await the first email! There is a better one of Mollie's family but I couldn't get it to download off his phone. Looks like an edit on this post, soon :)

A story of the legacy of the deck that Elder Saunders and his dad built or if you build it, they will come

The farewell luncheon was held on Aug 30, 2015 after church at Elder Saunders Home. The previous 4 weeks were spent as a labor of love trying to get the deck built. It was twice as big and 10 times more sturdy than the previous deck. Side by side, for many days, Father and son worked hard to complete it. Chandler Peterson, JD Baker, Grant Alvey and Brother Hurst were a blessing to pitch in and help. The night before his talk and farewell brunch , they finished in the dark. Many friends and family did come and we were so thankful for the outpouring of love from each of them. The deck stands as a beautiful reminder, now that he has left to go to the MTC, of the love and sacrifice a father and son made and finished for all to enjoy and many memories to come.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

My final talk and farewell luncheon Aug 30 2015

Elder Saunders was scheduled to give his final talk before his mission on Aug 30. The week was rough and he began to have doubts that he should serve.He prayed and prayed that it would be okay and that he would have an answer to know he was supposed to go on a mission. As he was in despair the night before his talk and had about given up, the doorbell rang. It was one of our sweet sisters in our Ward, Jen Kilstrom's son. He had a book in his hand that he said his mom wanted Andrew to have. Elder Saunders looked at the book and the title was, "Jump right in" by Len Ellis. Len is Jen's father that had recently passed away. With tears in his eyes he knew,  Here was his answer to his prayer! Heavenly Father did want him to go-he really did-he wanted him to jump right in and never look back.  

On Aug 30, 2015  Elder Andrew Saunders spoke in Church on the importance of the Atonement and Sacrament. He opened his talk and said he had felt very emotional this past week. He felt like a teenage girl who had just broken up with her boyfriend, lol. 
He spoke about the atonement and said that through the Savior's sacrifice, if we repent, we could start again anew. Satan thinks he is beating us down but really he is strengthening us to fight a battle that only we can win with the help of our Savior. The atonement helps us to be better people and be able to repent of our wrongdoings and return to our Heavenly father. He told how he learned to love and appreciate the Sacrament. When he was little and was fasting, the bread tasted like steak and he devoured it, with no thought. As he grew older he learned that we renew our covenants we make at baptism: To keep his commandments, to always remember him, take upon us his name. 

He was a bit emotional and said' I am not going to cry." I am not going to cry." He reached over and pushed the kleenex box away :)

He cited many scriptures and ended with his testimony. He knows and loves the Savior and he is so thankful for the sacrifice the Savior made for him and all others. He mentioned that he has had good friends who have helped him along the way to serve a mission and good parents and family that helped him to go. 

In the name of Jesus Christ Amen