Friday, May 26, 2017

A Long Journey with a Perfect Ending

                                           Our faithful "Porteros" and good friends. Omar,
                                         (middle) mans the gate and Segundo, (right) keeps
                                       the grounds, which mostly are dirt, but he works hard!

Because of all the flooding in March and April, the end of April we were hit with several plagues: the plague of dragonflys, the plague of caterpillars, the plague of mosquitos, the plague of crickets, fleas, bedbugs and sewer water. I was beginning to think that we were going to make it through our last summer without mosquitoes, because they came so late. But that was very wishful thinking! We literally had to get the door closed in two seconds to not end up with mosquitoes in our house. I thought my legs were already covered in bites, but then I got fleas. Who knew that little tiny bugs that you can hardly see, could cause so much pain and misery. Where they came from, we have no idea! Our mattress was treated and our house fumigated and now we are doing much better. Mark even had some bites, which is unusual for him! We had lots of trials and experiments and tested every home remedy known to man! We can both verify that the best remedy for itching bug bites is ice. It just numbs it all up and you are good for an hour or so. Anything else only lasts a minute or two, even Benadryl or Aloevera.

                                            My roses have really thrived with all the rain.
                                                     These red ones look like velvet.

The very worst plague was the crickets. Unfortunately, there were no seagulls to save us from the this plague! There were hundreds of them. They swarmed the outdoor mall, the churches and our yard! I hate bugs period, but the problem for my husband is that the noise they make drives him crazy. We had quite a chorus going in our yard. One night, we both woke up at about 3:00 am and were not getting back to sleep very easily. So, what did my husband do? He went out in the yard to go cricket hunting! It was a lot quieter when he came back to bed.... he killed over 10 of them!

One Sunday we had a special conference in Pomalca with Elder Montoya to change out the Stake Presidency. I was asked to play the piano for the Conference. When I got up to play there were two huge dead crickets under the piano. It really grossed me out. I was pretty horrified. Then I got up to play the closing song and noticed there was a new live cricket under the piano! It was divine intervention that I did not scream. When the closing prayer was said, I saw that there had been another live cricket right under the pedal where my foot had been. It was a miracle I had not seen it and fainted or something. Everywhere we go, there are dead squished crickets all over the floor. I would never step on one. They have been everywhere! It has been a nightmare.

One of the best ways to see and understand what the missionaries concerns and needs are, is through the Multi-Conferences held every 6 weeks.  Besides being able to teach and train these amazing young missionaries, it is also an opportunity for them to get together  and renew friendships and share missionary experiences.

                                             Multi-Zone Conference activities. Mark is
                                                           creative in his teaching.

         Multi-Zone Conference Game! It was fun!

I would just like to summarize the things we did in April to remember what a month in the Mission is like. The first week of April we had our Leadership Council for seven hours, then we did interviews for three days. The second week we sent home 6 missionaries with a dinner and testimony meeting in our home and welcomed 4 new missionaries the next morning with a breakfast and interviews. We attended two district meetings, spoke in a Stake Conference (three talks for Mark and two for me), had a District Conference, which is Mark's District and he changed out the District Presidency. Then the last week of the month, we had Multi-Zone Conference for two days and then left the very next day for Lima to attend meetings there for two days. This was our last Area meeting with the Area Presidency and it was kind of fun because we were the "graduating class", since we were going home with six other couples at the end of June. We were all invited to bear our testimonies and had a special group photo. We dearly love these friends and we will miss them! We all grew and learned a lot together!

                                                President and Sister Riggins

                                                       President and Sister Boswell

                                                   President and Sister Rasmussen

After three years of being teased about not trying the famous dish in Peru called "Ceviche" (some sort of raw fish specialty) Mark tried it!!!  It was NOT a big hit for him!!

The highlight of our trip to Lima was a special reunion that was organized by our former assistant Elder Pacherres, who is the best! We had a special meeting with a large group of former missionaries that all live in Lima. They wanted a chance to say goodbye to us. When we walked into the chapel, they were all standing in the front singing "Called to Serve." They were all dressed in dresses, white shirts and ties. We were so impressed! They asked us to say something and then every single missionary there (around 40) got up at the pulpit and expressed their love and gratitude for us. It was so touching and so sweet! Peruvians are so loving and so sweet! I could not believe it! It was just a really special night for us and we really appreciated the effort they made to be there. We took a lot of pictures that night!

Selfie with Elder Pacherres!

Some of the sisters. The sister on my right had
just gone home the week before.

As soon as we got back, the first week of May, we had the movers come and pack up all our stuff. It was very hard work. it was much harder than I ever imagined. We had a lot more "stuff" here in this house than I had remembered. What I thought would be a two hour job turned out to be a two day job! It was amazing. Our house is very barren now and the fact that we are leaving is starting to feel real. A day after that we left for our last trip to Jaen, to do interviews and speak in another Stake Conference. It was an exhausting three days, but it was so good to meet with the missionaries and the members of the Jaen Stake. They were very sweet and expressed their gratitude for our service. We will miss them!

All our junk waiting to be boxed. There was more 
                        than we thought!

More junk !

Our junk after being boxed. At least we did not
                                 have to pack it! It's on it's way to the United State right now!                                            

The highlight of this month was definitely our last Mission Tour with Elder Godoy and his wife. He is the Area President of our Area, South America Northwest. He and his wife were so kind and so gracious. Mission Tours can be a little stressful. You want to make sure that everything is perfect and we both were asked to speak, but Elder Godoy really made us feel comfortable and only had good things to say about our missionaries and the Mission. It was such a wonderful way to "end" our Mission. It is not over yet, but we felt that the Lord approved of the service that we have given and that brought us a lot of joy after all we have done. I think it is normal to wonder when we are released from a calling, if the Lord approves of what we have done and that was the feeling we had; that He does. Elder Godoy actually extended us our release. He asked us to share with him the changes we have seen in each other during the Mission and that was a special experience.

                                   The Godoy's are from Brazil and have four children. They
                                both speak three languages; Portuguese, Spanish and English!
                                                          They are pretty amazing!

Elder Godoy also invited us to participate in a Young Adult Fireside he was having on Saturday night. He asked us to respond to three questions: How did we meet, what did we admire in each other and what counsel did we have to give? We both answered from our own perspective. It was pretty fun to share our experiences, especially since it is our 36th anniversary next week! I told them that we have been together for thirty six years and that I still love my husband! They thought that was funny, but I was serious. I love my husband. He has become an even more humble and obedient man in the last three years. I have seen him struggle many times with the right way to do "something" and in the end realize that the Lord wanted it done a different way. That answer did not come without a lot of prayer and struggling, but once he knew the answer, he always obeyed.

                                   On the beach with new missionaries making paper boats!
                                                           This has been our tradition!

We had a "special" visitor... a stray dog!

On Monday this week we sent home 12 missionaries and welcomed 12 new missionaries. It is amazing to me how the Mission is always in constant change. It makes it challenging to keep things flowing smoothly. We will have our last change in only three weeks, June 12th and 13th. The change was supposed to be the first of July, but to make the transition easier for the incoming new president, it was moved up earlier for us to do to give him a break. So our last change we will send home 19 missionaries and welcome 7 more! That will be a great experience at the end of our mission. The very last thing we will do is to hold interviews one last time. I will miss helping the missionaries with English. It has been such a rewarding experience. They have progressed so much and have been so grateful for the help. I love them all so much!

                            Twelve faithful missionaries headed for home! How we love them!

 These are my missionaries with their English 
certificates. I am so proud of them!

This morning I was reading in the Book of Mormon in 3 Nephi chapter four where the Nephites all gather together in one group for seven years to fight the Gadianton Robbers and drive them out of their land. It took seven years! They were not fighting constantly all this time, but had to live this way and protect their lands for seven years. In the end, they were victorious and it says that they sang and praised God for preserving them from their enemies. "And their hearts were swollen with joy, unto the gushing out of many tears, because of the great goodness of God in delivering them out of the hands of their enemies." (3 Nephi 4:31-33) I have always loved this because there have been many times in my life when I have shed great tears of joy.

I could not help comparing this story to the last three years of our life, that have been difficult at times, and feeling joy and gratitude to God for preserving and helping us. I gushed out many tears myself and wondered why this related to us, since we had not been attacked by enemies. We had served a mission. But then I realized that God had preserved us from our enemies of fear and doubt which come from Satan. Satan does not want us to succeed in this work and I felt his opposition, in so many ways, more strongly than I ever have in my whole life. There were times when I was literally paralyzed with fears and doubts and temptations. It has been a battle for me many times. But I know the Lord has helped me and preserved me. We could never have done any of this without His help.

We all have "enemies" we are fighting whether they be sickness, death, temptations, doubts or fears. But I know that if we turn to the Lord, he will preserve us. In 3 Nephi 4 it says, "they knew it was because of their repentance and their humility that they had been delivered from an everlasting destruction." I know that if we are repentant and humble throughout our lives that we will be delivered from destruction and that we will gain the gift of Eternal Life with our Father and His Son Jesus Christ. I know that they live and they love us. They will help us if we turn to them.

                                           Former missionaries came back to visit. Elder
                                                     Woolstenhulme with his parents.

Hermana Aranguren

I was just listening to Michael McLean tell the story of his father, who had Alzheimers, and was asked to speak on Easter. He spent fifteen minutes talking about God the Father and about all of His divine attributes. Finally, at the end, he talked about how God the Father, the greatest of all, had left His Son alone when he was hanging on the cross. Michael's father said that he felt there was a reason for this. He felt the Father had left him alone because it was His way of saying that He had faith in His Son. Then he said, at moments in our lives, when we feel alone and we feel forsaken, maybe our Heavenly Father is saying to us that He has faith in us. President Eyring said, "So, the great test of life is to see whether we will hearken to and obey God's commands in the midst of the storms of life. It is not to endure storms, but to choose the right while they rage."

There have been so many times on this mission that I have gone to my room, fell on my knees, prayed and cried for the Lord to help me in this calling. I was always hoping that I would feel peace or calm or have some kind of great revelation that would help me. But that never happened. For a long time, I felt that maybe those prayers were not being answered. But after I had been in the mission for more time and I looked back, I realized that the Lord had answered my prayers. It was just not in the way I wanted or expected. He answered me by giving me strength. No matter how beaten and how weak I had felt the night before, I woke up and had the strength to keep going every day. So many times, that was an absolute miracle for me!

I hope that we can all see and recognize the Lord's hand in our lives. I have prayed many times and I have said, "Father, I can't do this without thy help. Please do not leave me alone!" I know that he has always been there. I know that he never leaves us alone. He has faith in us. In D&C 90:24 it says "Search diligently, pray always and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good;" This message was repeated three times in the Sunday morning session of General Conference and I knew in my heart that it was the Lord's message just for me. I know even more now, after these three years, that this is true. God lives and he loves us and will always bless us. Our prayers are always answered!

Monday, March 27, 2017

"I am a God of Miracles"

Just over two months ago, (January 25, 2017) I had surgery, a hysterectomy. Apparently, my uterus had a talent for growing fibroids (benign uterine tumors). I had seven of them. This meant I had to make a trip back to the United States and I was gone from the mission for a month. Maybe I was not supposed to enjoy it, but I really did. I had the privilege of "hanging out" with my daughter Jodi and her husband Chris and my four grandchildren, CJ, Chase, Rosie and Lucy in Vancouver Washington. What a treat after not seeing them for two years (my grand-kids)! This was my second trip back to the United States, the first being a trip to California for the wedding of my son Brian to his sweet wife Megan.

                                            I had the rare treat of being with Lucy for her
                                              4th Birthday. I don't get to spend birthdays
                                                     with my grandchildren very often.

                                                          Lucy's new Birthday outfit.

 We got to have lunch at Lucy's fav;
Chick Fillet!

The Birthday Princess!

A Big Bear from Nana1

The week before my trip to the United States, Jodi and Chris were able to make a trip to Peru and visit us. It was a fun filled week. They got a true missionary experience! They came in on Monday night and were able to experience welcoming seven new missionaries the following morning. They got to hang out at the office awhile, chat with missionaries and feel of their sweet and humble spirits. They really enjoyed it. Wednesday they were able to attend a District Meeting with us. I'm not sure how much they understood, but they got the idea of what that experience is like! We also did the traditional trips to the pyramids, to the museum and to the beach. Chris was extremely daring and courageous and jumped off the pier with a bunch of teenagers. Mark, on the other hand; we'll just say it never happened! We enjoyed spending time with them and were able to fly out on the same flight with them at the end of the week to go to the United States.

                                           A crop of seven new missionaries; five Americans
                                    and two Latinas. We always take them to Pimentel Beach.

                                                        Mark and Chris on the beach.

                                             With Jodi at a nearby park. The guy with us
                                                      was a High Priest for Lord Sipan.

In front of an ancient boat. Very 
similar to the boats in "Moana"

At the Central Market

Eating out with Jodi and Chris

Chris and I in front of fishing boats still used
today, just like those used for hundreds of years!

Jodi with her Dad in front of the Pacific Ocean.
Pimentel Beach

In 2nd Nephi 1:20, Nephi says "But behold, I Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance." I would like to add my testimony to that of Nephi. I learned, from this surgery experience, that the Lord does care for and bless his servants. I also learned that miracles are not dead. They are still being performed in our day. In 2 Nephi 27:23, the Lord says, "For behold, I am God; and I am a God of miracles; and I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and I work not among the children of men save it be according to their faith." My hope is to show that I too know that God is a God of miracles and that He is the same today.

                                               Treasures from Peru from Mom and Dad
                                                             (And Nana and Papa!)

When I thought about having my abdomen cut open and my husband not being there with me, I was paralyzed with fear. I made the mistake of looking up the side affects of a hysterectomy and Siri told me in a very loud voice, "A hysterectomy is major surgery and has a long, painful recovery." For a day and a half I was haunted by that statement. My husband finally gave me a blessing and I felt more at peace. Two hours later I found out that a laparoscopic hysterectomy was a possibility and that my Area Leaders insisted that my husband go to the United States with me to have my surgery. I cried from relief and gratitude. I felt the tender mercies of the Lord on that day.

From the very beginning, I had a strong impression that I should have this done in the Portland area. It made sense. I had two children in the area and my daughter Jodi had plenty of space for me to stay and recuperate. I also knew that there was great medical care and very good doctors in this area. The next challenge was to find a doctor who was willing to do the surgery and in a timely manner, as my husband could not spend too much time in the United States. We called many Doctor's offices and got the same response; I would have to be an established patient and have at least three to four appointments to do this. We realized it was going to take some kind of a miracle to find a doctor who would be willing to do this in the time frame that we needed and that was the last week of January.

                                           All of our children were able to come for a few
                                            days right after my surgery. It was our first time
                                            all together in 2 1/2 years. Brian, 25, Eric, 28,
                                             Lisa, 31 (& with child), Jodi 32, & Julie,34

Getting ready for company!

At the end of the week, my daughter Jodi heard of a doctor in her area that was an expert in this type of laparoscopic hysterectomy. He happened to be a Stake President in a neighboring stake in Vancouver, Washington where my daughter lived. My husband called him, explained our situation and he immediately agreed to do the surgery. He was not available in December or February, but the last week of January was perfect for his schedule. We could not believe that we really had been given a miracle! This doctor came highly recommended by all who knew him. He agreed to meet with us on January 23, a Monday, a day after we arrived and then would do the surgery on Wednesday, January 25. It was perfect for us!

We got to meet a very important person; Eic's
girlfriend, Rachel!

                                           One night all five jumped in our bed We couldn't
                                               go to bed: Julie, Jodi, Lisa, Eric and Brian

Recovering. Thankfully it was not a long painful
recovery. Just a short semi-painful one. I was
feeling pretty good after a month.

Cheesecake Factory! We do not get that in Peru!

Julie and Lisa headed home after a fun weekend!

For the following six weeks until I had the surgery, I felt no fear and perfectly at peace. But when I was laying in the hospital bed being prepped for surgery and having an IV inserted in each arm, (which is standard procedure for robotic laparoscopic surgery), I started feeling unsettled again and wondered if we had made the right choice. I had two kind sweet nurses preparing me. One was working at the computer and we had some discussion with her about faith in God and prayer. She was obviously a very religious person with a lot of faith. During this time, my anesthesiologist came to the room to chat with me. After she left, the nurse purposely commented, "She is the best anesthesiologist in this hospital or this area! And your doctor, Dr. Rushing, he is also one of the best doctors I know." Then she added, "God is really watching out for you today!" When she said these words, I knew it was true. The Spirit told me so. The Lord had put these circumstances in place so that I would get the best care possible. What a miracle!

                                                             A Brave Smile! Ha ha!

All the fear and worrying I had been experiencing completely left me and I felt at peace. It was amazing to me that not only did I have the best anesthesiologist and surgeon, but also a nurse who was a woman of faith and with her comforting words had brought peace to my heart. With tears in my eyes, I told her that her words had brought me comfort. She looked at me again and said, "Please do not worry. I am going to pray for you." She was not only a woman of faith, but one with great charity. She hardly knew me and was concerned for my welfare. What an example of love she was to me. When Dr. Rushing came and told us that the surgery was a complete success and it appeared there was no threat of cancer, my husband asked him to find this nurse and let her know, because she had been so concerned about me. When Dr. Rushing told her the news, she cried. I am sure it was another confirmation of her faith and prayers.

Recovery. I was hallucinating really 
bad. I just knew there were monkeys on
the bed and couldn't understand why
nobody else could see them!

The first thing I wanted, when I woke up, was to see my husband. My first words were, "Where is my husband? I love my husband!" Seeing him was my way of knowing that everything was okay. I am so thankful for his support. He was able to stay with me for another five days after the surgery, but then was anxious to get back to the mission (which he should have been). We were able to keep all of this a secret and none of the missionaries even knew he had been gone, until after he got back. I was still able to receive calls from missionaries with health problems and other questions during my recovery. Some called me with "health" problems to see if I was doing okay.

When Mark got back it was only two days before there were severe rain storms and flooding in Chiclayo. Most of the missionaries were fine, but he spent a few days bailing water out of missionary's rooms. This was in February and Chiclayo was a mess. Dirt roads and garbage are not pretty when they get flooded. Most of the roads here do not have drainage and the sewer water overflows and mixes with the flood water. It really does not smell very good!

We only had two missionary rooms that flooded very 
badly. Out of 70 rooms, that was not too bad.

I found this out, because after I got back in March, we had another round of rainstorms and flooding. This time it was throughout all of Peru. The Central Highway has been flooded for two weeks now, so there are no trucks or supplies getting up to Chiclayo. We are experiencing shortages of foods like chicken, bread, bananas, lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, apples, carrots, and avocados. We walked by McDonald's at the mall the other day and the only food available was fried chicken and french fries. At Chili's there were no salads or hamburgers. We are hoping the road will open up soon so we can at least eat a salad! We are safe! We had a few puddles in our house one night, but all the leaks have been fixed now. Our neighborhood has not flooded like many others, because we have a drainage system. We have been blessed. We have not suffered like many who have lost their homes and possessions to the flooding. In one area, members of the church had to be airlifted out from their flooded homes in helicopters, because the road was flooded and impassable.

Our Multi-Zone Conference was the same week as the rains and was interrupted by the impassable roads. We had two areas that could not get to the second day of our Multi-Zone Conference, so we had to postpone it until three days later. When they finally made it, we were all very happy. We had a great Multi-Zone Conference and trained and taught many things. One of the things we emphasized is the importance of inviting people "with a date" to be baptized. This is one of the key indicators of missionary work. In Preach my Gospel, the missionaries are encouraged to give the baptismal challenge in the first lesson and then to have a date set by the second lesson. My husband had the idea to make all the missionaries a t-shirt to remind them to make these baptismal challenges and to make sure the investigators have a set baptismal date they are working toward. The t-shirt says, "Con Fecha" which means literally "with date." In the mission, this means that the investigators have set a baptismal date!

    Our First day of Multi-Zone Conference with the Chiclayo Peru, Pomalca, Victoria and Dorado                 Zones. Tuesday, March 14, 2017. Here we are in our matching "Con Fecha" t-shirts!

    Our second day of Multi-Zone Conference with the Chiclayo Central, Latina, Jaen and                         Lambayeque Zones. Friday, March 17, 2017. This Conference was supposed to be on Tuesday,
    but the Jaen and Lambayeque Zones were not able to get through on the roads until Friday. We
    were so happy to see them when they finally made it! Lambayeque has been the area most hard hit
    by the flooding in our Mission.

In the midst of all this, we had a missionary miracle! The 72 year old mother of Edna (our maid) was taught and baptized a member of the church. Mark was able to teach her some in our home and once in her house, and the missionaries did the rest.  It was an honor for Mark to baptize her. Redelinda is a very humble woman who has lived in the jungle all of her life and worked very hard to raise and provide for her children. Before this, there were not any other members of the church in Edna's family, accept for her three children. Edna has been a member for nine years. It was a very happy and special day for all of us! Edna's children, (Redelinda's grandchildren), could not believe that their abuelita had been baptized and said it was a miracle. One granddaughter is serving a mission in Chile and one grandson in Bolivia, so they were not able to attend, but they were so happy! My husband emailed them pictures so they would believe it was true!

                                           "Us" with Edna and Redelinda dressed in white!
                                                        She asked Mark to baptize her.

This father was also baptized and a family was
made complete in the gospel.

                                                 Me with the Relief Society Sisters. These
                                               ladies make me look and feel tall! So weird!

                                                 Mark and I with Redelinda and Edna.

One last miraculous experience that I had! My flight home was a little difficult, because I was alone. I had to be careful; I could not lift my luggage and I had to walk every two hours on the flights. Everything had been fine, but when we were nearing Lima, I began to feel a little worried about my ability to communicate in Spanish and handle all of this on my own. I felt very alone! I said a silent prayer in my heart that Heavenly Father would be with me and help me. When I got off the flight, there was a young Peruvian man helping me. He looked at my name tag and said, "Are you a missionary for the Mormon church? I'm a member too. I served a mission like you!" We got on the elevator with another woman and she said, "What church are you talking about?" The young man informed her that it was the Mormon church. She said, "Oh yes! I'm a member too! I have worked in the Lima temple for many years. How marvelous that all three of us are here together!" I did not feel alone anymore. I felt like I was with friends! I know this was not an accident, but a tender mercy in answer to a prayer. It was a long night, but I made it home, to my husband and the missionaries, knowing that the Lord had watched over me for the whole trip. He is a God of miracles! I know that!

Sorry! More grand-kid pics!

                                                    I got to see Chase and CJ play B-ball!

                                                    Rosie is quite the character. She wore
                                                her Mom's high heeled boots to the game!

Rosie and Lucy dancing in Mom's shoes!

Cutter doing the splits in my tennis 
shoes! He may have a talent here!

Cutter wrapped in my jacket like a
Straight jacket. He liked it!

                                                  Hanging out with Kashli, Carly and Cali.
                                                      They have really grown in 2 years.