Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas Greetings

Dear Family and Friends,

December has been a wonderful month for us. We have truly felt the joy of serving our Savior Jesus Christ and offering this gift of service to Him. We have also felt the great spirit of our wonderful missionaries. We have had the opportunity to meet with four groups of missionaries to celebrate Christmas. We shared Christmas traditions from each country, each district or zone presented skits, we watched videos of the missionaries and the Nativity, sang, gave gifts and ate banana splits. That was such a treat for the missionaries! The skits were so amazing and creative. One group sang "President is coming to town." "He sees you when your sleeping, he knows when you're awake, he knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake!" They also had all original words for the verses. We also had a "The Mission's got talent" and Mark and I got to be the judges. It was so much fun!

The Judges

For the parties, I did some research about our mission and found out some interesting facts: There are fourteen countries represented in our mission. The largest group of missionaries comes from the United States: 93.

The next is Peru with 67.
Bolivia: 17
Ecuador: 15
Argentina: 9
Mexico: 7
Honduras: 5
Colombia: 5
Chile: 4
Canada: 4 (all sisters)
Nicaragua: 2
El Salvador, Guatemala, Uruguay: 1

Uno de Guatemala

Dos Hermanas de Colombia

Visiting apartments

The Beautiful Andes: Christmas 2014

Dos de Mexico

The Williams Family! Sister Williams is 
complaining that her husband drives too fast.
I just could not relate.

Uno de Argentina. They love their herbal tea!

Christmas Spirit! We love them!

Uno de El Salvador

It was so interesting to hear about the traditions in every country. One tradition that seems to be common in all the Latin American countries is that they have a huge special dinner at midnight. There is really no focus on Santa Claus here, so it is all about the birth of Christ and family. In the United States we would never have the patience to wait until midnight to eat. We have to get to bed early so that Santa can come!

The numbers in our mission change almost weekly, so these numbers are not exact, but pretty close. We just found out a week ago that they are forming a new mission in our area. The mission south of us is Trujillo, where a new temple is being built. They are splitting the mission to make a Trujillo South and North Mission. So we will be losing our two most southern areas, Cajamarca and Guadalupe, to the Trujillo North Mission. We will lose about 50 missionaries, taking us down to about 180. Of course we hate to lose any of our missionaries, but it will be a relief to not have to drive as much and to have more manageable numbers.

The church is forming some new missions to try to get the number of missionaries in all missions around 200. We have some huge ones here in Peru. The Trujillo Mission has around 270 missionaries! I heard today also, that they are making my hometown, Modesto, a new mission also. It has been a part of the Fresno Mission for a long time. One thing I have learned is that change is constant in the Mission Field.

Another interesting and amazing thing happened in our mission. When I was speaking at out zone conference in November, one sister kept thinking that I was just like her mom and kept having the feeling that her Mom was going to be doing this too. The next day, her Dad called us first, then her and told us he had been called to be a Mission President! But they did not know where they would be serving yet. This sister kept waiting to hear where the call would be and kept telling me there were three openings in Peru and maybe they could come here. I really did not think that was possible, but yesterday she called me and said they were called to the Peru Piura Mission. That mission borders ours on the north. So her parents will be right next to her! I can not believe the miracles that happen in this church. The gospel is so true and this is truly the Lord's work. We love being a part of His work and glory and serving with all these wonderful missionaries from all over the American Continent. They are such choice individuals. It is such a priviledge to serve with them and to serve our Lord Jesus Christ. We hope all is well with you and your loved ones and hope your Christmas will be very merry and bright!

Mark and Dianna Williams

Uno de Uruguay

Los Peruanos!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Our gift to Christ and His gift to us

As I prepared for our Leadership Council yesterday, it dawned on me that I felt a lot more confident this month about speaking in Spanish. I reviewed in my mind how this could be possible and I realized that one of my greatest trials has been my biggest blessing: Speaking in Stake Conference. It has been so hard for me and I even felt angry at one point that I had to speak so much and go through this terror every single week. For the last two or three months we have spoken almost every weekend. It's different here in Peru than in the United States where the Mission President and wife usually speak once for about five minutes each. We are usually asked to speak two or three times for a total of 25 minutes. A week ago Sunday, as I sat and listened to my husband speak, the scripture in Ether 12:6 came to my mind: "Wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith." As I sat and pondered that scripture, it brought me great comfort to know that my faith had been tried and eventually the "witness" would come, which to me has always meant the "blessing" would come. And then it happened. Last Sunday as I spoke twice in Stake Conference, I really felt very little nervousness at all and felt very comfortable when I got up to speak. I even made the audience laugh. How was that possible? As I prepared on Monday to speak at our meeting, I realized that one of my greatest trials, speaking in Stake Conference, was truly a great blessing. The Lord is making "a weak thing" in my life to "become strong." (Ether 12:27)

I decided that for December I would make the leaders in our mission a special treat. There are 45 of them, so they each got one cocoa oatmeal cookie and one chunk of butter almond toffee. I felt bad that it was so small, but that was all I had time to do. Today as I walked by one Elder from the United States, he grabbed my hand in both of his and said, "Thank you so much Sister Williams. That was perfect. I just needed a little taste of home today." Wow. What a profound statement. I have thought a lot about what he said. I believe that we all need a little taste of home sometimes. For me, I believe that need, for a little taste of home, has driven me to pray and to search the scriptures everyday. I think it prompts us to go to church each Sunday and to attend the temple. Some days I just need to talk to my family. Other days I just need to be near my husband, because he is my home. The missionaries need love and support and they need to hear from their families each week. The Lord has blessed us with so many ways to have a "little taste of home" on a regular basis.

Thanksgiving was pretty hard for me. I wish I could say I was really strong and it did not even bother me to be away from home, but it did. I think it would have been easier if we had just ignored the day and went on like normal, like we did on the Fourth of July and Halloween. But I was determined to have a normal Thanksgiving. A few days before, I made candied yam souffle and homemade stuffing. I always used Stovetop in the United States, but that is not available here. The day before Thanksgiving I made cranberry relish with dried cranberries (we only found in Lima) and apple crisp instead of pumpkin pie. How can it be Thanksgiving without any pumpkin I wondered? The week of Thanksgiving was not a very good week for me and I was a bit stressed out. Our tradition has always been to go to a movie the day before Thanksgiving, so my husband and I followed through with that, trying to relax a little bit. After the movie we went to a restaurant to eat and I ordered soup. It was barely warm and tasted a little funny. I suddenly realized that the chicken in my soup was not fully cooked. In other words, it was raw! That really ruined my dinner. But tomorrow had to be better, right? I mean, it was Thanksgiving and we had invited the office elders and some friends over to eat with us.

I felt we were so lucky to find one store in town that sold turkeys. Like normal, the day before Thanksgiving, I took it out of the freezer to thaw it out. Thanksgiving morning, I started the rolls pretty early, about 8:15. Everything was a perfectly normal holiday. I teased Mark that he could fix the turkey. He had learned how to do it in Bakersfield because he always had a Thnksgiving feast at the Institute every year. He said that was fine. While I was waiting for him to come to the kitchen, I figured I may as well get the turkey started. I cut the bag open and pulled the turkey out. I read through the directions on the outside of the bag. Next I checked the neck cavity and there was a little bag of the entrails, everything just like normal I thought in my mind. I could already see the neck protruding from the body cavity. That was different. I started to pull it out and thought it was strange that such a small turkey (17 lbs.) had such a long neck. As it came out, I looked and realized that they had been very generous and the head was still attached. I could see little eyes and a beak. At this point, I dropped the neck and ran from the kitchen screaming. Mark had just come into the kitchen and I kept screaming, "Do you know what that is? Do you know what that is?"

There was no way I was going back in there and I told Mark that he would definitely have to fix the turkey this year because I never wanted to see that turkey again! So he did. At this point, I think I had a small nervous breakdown, because I cried uncontrollably for about thirty minutes and told Mark I was not going to make dinner, I was not going to talk to any of these people and I was certainly not going to live in Peru anymore. It was just way too stressful for me. Especially cooking, because I could never find the ingredients that I needed and nothing ever tasted the same. Mark was so patient and so kind and listened to all of my ranting for about an hour. His plan had been to go into the office that morning, but after my display, I think he was afraid to leave. He was so patient all morning and kept asking me what he could do to help. I finally pulled myself together and got dinner finished, but it was not a good day for me. I totally lost my appetite and it is the first Thanksgiving in my life that I can remember that I did not eat any turkey! The dinner was a great success and everybody loved it, except for me.

Later in the day, when I was not so stressed out anymore, Mark started telling me that there might be something under my pillow tonight. He actually thought that was funny, but I really didn't. He waited until that night to tell me that there were also turkey feet inside the turkey. Peruvians love chicken feet. I have seen bags full of them in their shopping carts. I have learned to not look too closely at anything in the meat section. Then Mark said, "It was really gross!" He was my hero that day. He wrapped the head and the feet all up and made sure they were taken outside to the garbage so I would never see them again. I don't think we are going to have Thanksgiving anymore in Peru. I'll just wait until we are in the United States. I don't believe in having Thanksgiving without pumpkin anyway!

                                          Thanksgiving in the Mission Home, Nov. 27, 2014

Then today when Mark came home for lunch, he was very afraid to tell me that the weird smell he had been smelling in our Nissan Pathfinder (one of our mision cars), was a dead rat. It had been in our car for almost two weeks and the whole car just reeked from it. They had to take the car in to be deep cleaned and detailed. They said it got in through a hole it had chewed in the air conditioning unit. Mark told all the elders that he knew exactly what I would say. After telling me this news, he said, "So do you have anything to say?" I said, "You mean like I am not riding in that car?" He said, "Anything else" and I said "I'm never riding in it again?" That was exactly what he had told them I would say. Oh, what will it be next?!

After all of this, I really didn't feel like putting up Christmas decorations. It seemed futile. Nothing ever feels right. I was pretty depressed when I started putting them out. However, as I decorated some things started happening that made me very happy. I love putting out my nativities. I just love the beautiful story of Christ's birth. It never gets old to me. To me, every nativity is a testimony of Christ's birth and each one fills our home more with the Spirit of Christ. With each one that I put out, I felt a little bit better. Then I put out my Willowtree nativity, which is one of my favorite ones. As I started unwrapping it, I vaguely remembered that we had bought the creche for it last year after Christmas. I went through all the boxes and found it: a brand new unopened box with the creche inside it. It was pretty exciting to open something new, but more than that, it reminded me of how much my husband loves me. He bought it for me last year and now it was a blessing to me a year later, in a strange place, that brought happiness to me. I felt his love for me as I opened the box and put it together. I thought about how he loves to buy things for me that I really want. It's a material thing, but those thoughts of his love for me made me so happy.

Then, when I was almost done decorating, I found one single piece of straw (fake) on the floor. I immediately recognized it. These were pieces of straw that we put in a little manger each Christmas when we did service for each other in our family. Immediately, a hundred happy memories came to my mind of our Christmases together as a family and the service we gave to each other and all of the traditions that we shared. Every year we filled a little manger with straw for baby Jesus as we served each other. Our acts of service were our gifts for Jesus. It filled me with such peace, that I started to think of what a miracle it was that this one piece of straw had ended up in one of the boxes and had made it all the way to Peru. Maybe Heavenly Father's hand was in it, to give me the comfort and the peace I needed at this moment in my life. There was no way I was throwing away that piece of straw! I layed it in front of our Christus to remind me that my service is the gift that I can give to Jesus Christ.

Decorating the Mission Office: Christmas 2014

Ever since my children have left home, I have struggled to feel happy during the holidays, because we used to have so many fun traditions together throughout the month and now we had nobody to share them with in December. But this year I feel totally different because that one little piece of straw reminded me of so many of the blessings that I enjoy. I realize how blessed I am that I was given a beautiful family that I was able to make all of those wonderful happy memories with. I feel so incredibly blessed.  I feel so grateful that I have been given the priviledge of serving my Savior Jesus Christ and that I can give him the gift this year of my service in the     mission field.

One memory in particular always warms my heart. We were living in Chandler, Arizona. It was our first year there and Eric was 5 years old, the year before he would start kindergarten. He was a very active child (and still is, kind of hyper) and it was not easy to keep him entertained. It seemed like he just went from one episode of mischief to another. The first Monday of December, we had our traditional family home evening about the straw and giving service to each other in our family and that our acts of service were our gifts to Baby Jesus. The next morning was a typical one, with Eric bouncing off the walls and not finding enough to do. At one point, when I was in my room getting dressed, Eric came into the room with a huge mischievious smile on his face. In a stern voice, I scolded him a little and said; "Eric, what have you done?" I just knew that he was doing something to cause trouble again, which was not a very charitable thought. He smiled even bigger and said, "Mom, I did a good deed for you! I made Brian's bed and cleaned up his room for you!" My heart melted as I realized the error I had made. Eric had actually listened and been touched the night before. His heart was brimming with joy because of the service he had given to me and the gift he had given to baby Jesus. My heart ws filled with joy too because of the example of an active little boy with a huge and tender heart. May we all give the gift of service this year to our Savior Jesus Christ and may all our hearts be filled with joy. I know that Christ was born as a babe in a humble manger. He was a gift to us from our Heavenly Father and His gift to us is His Atonement. May we always remember this and have a Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 17, 2014

La Vida Loca

Every time I think I have experienced everything that I possibly could on this mission . . . something crazy happens. I really need to quit having that thought! Two weeks ago we were in Jaen for a Stake Conference. We had picked up two general authorities at the Chiclayo airport on Friday evening about 5:00 and immediately driven the five hour trip to Jaen so that they could begin interviews early the next morning to find the new Stake President. We had finished the evening session of the Conference at 9:00 pm and went looking for a place to eat. It had been a long day. We were looking for a hamburger/ice cream place we had eaten at before and had a lot of trouble finding it. We finally did and realized it was all closed up. Apparently, it was out of business. So, disappointed, we decided to eat at the hotel restaurant that was supposedly open until 10:30 pm. However, when we got there it was already closed. We just had to laugh. What else could go wrong? There was a chicken place a half block away so we decided to walk there and eat (the four of us). The food was actually pretty good and we felt we had made a good choice.

By the time we finished eating, it was now about 10:15 pm, standard eating time for mission presidents! It always takes a loooooong time to pay the bill and our general authorities were very tired, so my husband told them to go ahead and get their things from the car and go ahead to their rooms. I took them to the car to get their stuff and then made the stupid decision to walk back to the restaurant to wait for my husband. The Area Authority insisted that he would walk with me, but I told him I would be fine. It was only a half block. He still insisted and began telling me that he knew Peru and it could be dnagerous. Right at that very moment when he said that Peru was dangerous, some guy came from out of nowhere from behind us and grabbed my purse and yanked on it as hard as he could. He yanked it so hard that it knocked me to the ground. Since he was unsuccessful in getting it, he took off and ran and jumped on the back of a motorcycle with another man. As I was picking myself up from off the ground, I commented to the general authority, "Yea, you are right. Peru is pretty dangerous!" He and the other seventy, who had returned, kept asking me if I was okay. I said I was fine, just my arm hurt really bad. Finally, my husband came out and wondered why we were all still standing there! When we got back to our room, we looked at my arm and I had a huge, nasty bruise. It was throbbing that night and was pretty tender for the next two weeks, but I was kind of proud of it, as a badge of honor. Especially since the "thief" was not able to get my purse away from me. I like to think my Mom was there protecting me!

Last week, we attended a Mission President's Seminar. It was held in Bogota, Colombia, so we spent three days in that country. Bogota was beautiful! So lush and green. It rains there almost everyday. On Wednesday we road a tram to the top of the highest mountain in Bogota, Mount Monterassat. It was 10,000 feet (Bogota itself is 8,000 feet). It was so amazingly beautiful. There is a church on top that was built in the 1600's. There is also what they call a cloud forest. The mountains had a huge cloud cover over them that is always there, but it never snows because it is not cold enough. Fitness enthusiasts actually run up a trail to the top of the mountain. The record right now is running it in 23 minutes. It is a very steep mountain and the altitude so high. It's an accomplishment to even breathe up there. I didn't understand how it was even possible to run up the mountain, but sure enough, when we were taking a group picture in front of the church, a jogger came running up from the trail! He had made it! Some people are so amazing, and such showoffs too!

                                          This is on top of the mountain with Bogota in the
                                           background. It is a huge city of 8 million people.

On our way home, we spent the night in Lima two nights. The second night we were in a 15 story high hotel. At about 7:20 pm, we had just got back from eating dinner, to our room on the sixth floor and there was an earthquake. It lasted about a minute and it was one of the most frightening minutes of our life. We were just waiting for nine stories on top of us to cave in! It was amazing to see the hotel shaking in the way that it was! We couldn't remember what we were supposed to do. We looked out the window at an office building and there were people eating a buffet meal like there was nothing happening. Mark just kept saying, "It's still going, it's still going!" I finally said, "Can you just be quiet!" We heard on the news the next day that it was 5.6 to 5.8 on the richter scale. I really hope we never have that experience again, but there are earthquakes in Peru all the time, so we may not be that lucky.

During the seminar we heard from the Area Presidency: Pres. Uceda (who is incredible, speaks English fluently and studies the scriptures in English), Elder Waddell and, Elder Carlos Godoy from Brazil. We also had David F. Evans from the Presidency of the Seventy come from Salt Lake to speak to us and we learned a lot from him. We realized some things that we need to do better. It seems that there is always room for improvement. I also had the opportunity to hear their wives speak in a wives session. The best thing I heard was counsel from Elder Christofferson that was quoted. In speaking to leaders who are incredibly busy and can't seem to do all that they are supposed to, he said that the way to not worry or feel guilty is to follow the promptings that you get from the Spirit. That little bit of advice gave us a lot of comfort. Sometimes we just cannot do it all!

Our next experience was just incredible and it all started with a simple email from the Area Office. We were asked to get our Peruvian Driver's License. Little did we know what we were in for. It started on a Friday. There is preliminary work that you have to do in order to get your license. First you go to a notary office, fill out some paperwork and get it notarized. Then you go to a doctor. In our case that was a four hour ordeal because we did not know the correct place to go. We went to five different places before we were able to get help. You have to have a blood test, a doctor's exam and a psychological evaluation. We had the blood test and the evaluation which consisted of drawing shapes, drawing a person and doing mazes. Very ineresting. Then we were told we would have to come back in an hour and a half because the doctor had gone home for lunch. That ended up being a six hour ordeal. That was just the preliminary. We still had to go the the MTC, Ministerio de Transportes y Comunicaciones. That was another day. The church flew a man they hired from Lima to help us with all the paperwork, etc. After going to the MTC, this man and my husband decided it would be easier to get our license in Lima.

So on our way home from Colombia, we stayed in Lima an extra day to get our Driver's License. We left our hotel with the hired man again at 8:00 in the morning, hoping to be done by Noon and catch a flight back to Chiclayo by 3:30. But in Peru there is always a problem. There was a problem with our doctor's exam. They did not like the way he had filled out the paperwork. So we had to go do the whole blood test, doctor's exam and psychological evaluation again. This time, on top of the pictures and mazes, we had to arrange blocks in ten different patterns. We were just very aware that we did not have a lot of time, so it made everything that much more stressful. We went back to the MTC and took a practice exam. It was in Spanish and the study material was in Spanish, so it was not easy. But, I had spent two hours on our flight studying the questions, while my husband relaxed and read a book. I was able to finish the exam before he did and then helped him with the last couple of questions. We both passed.

Next we took the real exam. They had only one English version, so I decided to take that and Mark took it in Spanish. Even in English, it was not easy. I finished 40 questions in about 15 minutes. It was so hard and worded very differently than it would be in the States. I was really worried that I did not pass, but I did!! It took Mark much longer and he did not pass. They would not let him retake the test until the next day. So we had to cancel our flight and spend an extra night in Lima. I went to two places and three different stations before they could make my license and I waited two hours to get it. We were working on getting my license for eight hours and neither of us had had anything to eat the whole day. I helped Mark study all night, then he went back in the morning, took the English test and passed.  After about 3 1/2 hours, he was able to get his license! What did I learn from this experience? The DMV in the Statesis really not too bad. I will never complain again about going there!

                                          We're official now! Look out Mototaxi's!

This morning I had a chance to ponder the scripture in D&C 18:10, "Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God." This is something I have really felt is true as I have served on this mission. Yesterday we had the opportunity to attend and speak at a District Conference. I always get choked up as I look at these humble people and feel the Lord's love for each precious soul. I realize His love for every soul as the missionaries go out and try to teach and reach every single one of them. I feel His love when He sends His servants to teach the Saints of the world and when He sends them to teach the missionaries and talk to each one personally. I feel His love for the missionaries when he asks my husband to read 240 letters each week so he knows exactly what is happening in the life of each missionary, OR when he asks us to interview every single missionary every three months so we can give counsel and show our love and interest in each one. I share my testimony that I know that Christ lives and that I know that he loves every single person who has lived or will yet live on this earth. He is full of charity and loving kindness. He is our advocate with the Father (D&C 45:3-5). He wants everyone of us to repent and to come unto Him. I know this is true.

Halloween in Peru. Harry Potter came!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Law of Witnesses

Shortly after the translation of the Book of Mormon was completed, the Lord allowed three other men to view the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated. When you think about the experience they had, it was really pretty incredible. The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith that the three witnesses would be Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer. They retired to a quiet spot in the woods. After praying for a while to see the plates, Martin Harris removed himself from the group and shortly thereafter, the Angel Moroni appeared with the plates. He turned the leaves of the book so that they could get a clear view of the inscriptions on the plates. Then they heard the voice of God speak to them and say, "These plates have been revealed by the power of God, and they have been translated by the power of God. The translation of them which you have seen is correct, and I command you to bear record of what you now see and hear." Along with the plates, they were shown the sword of Laban, the Urim and Thummim and the Liahona.  Wow! What an experience. After much prayer, Martin, along with Joseph was also able to see them.

Last week, I thought a lot about this and the relief Jospeh felt in having three other witnesses to verify what he had been saying all along for about nine years. Last week we completed our first "mission tour" for three days with Elder Waddell of the seventy and a counselor in our Area Presidency. It was so wonderful to feel his support and his approval of the things we are trying to do in our mission. He added his witness, in his talks to the missionaries, of how important it is to be obedient, the importance of the family and temples and the importance of following the mission president. I have seen firsthand that being a mission president, at times, can be a lonely job (and any leadership calling for that matter) and to have support from the Area Presidency and other leaders means a great deal. We have felt a great sense of relief and a burden lifted. Especially the assurance that we have been led by the Spirit. The Lord never leaves us alone when he asks us to do something that is not easy.

We have asked the missionaries in our mission to study and use the Proclamation on the Family in their teaching. "Con Viviente" or men and women living together out of wedlock is a very common practice in Peru and is a great hindrance to missionary work. So often missionaries tell us about the wonderful families they are teaching and then sadly say, "But they are living together." We believe that teaching them the doctrine of marriage and of families will help some of these couples change their lives. As Boyd K. Packer has said, "True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior." During our Zone Conferences last week, nine missionaries spoke about the Doctrine of Marriage and the Family and the Spirit was very strong as they shared what they have learned and some of the special experiences they have had in teaching families these truths.

Our mission tour consisted of three multi-zone conferences three days in a row with Elder Waddell presiding. He stayed in our home and we were with him for all three days. Wednesday and Thursday we met with eight zones in the Chiclayo area along with the zone from Jaen. We had about 100 missionaries each day. The Zone Conference started with Elder Waddell, and Mark and I, greeting and shaking hands with each missionary. So they each got to meet him personally.  The rest of the day consisted of about 5 hours of instruction mostly from Elder Waddell. Mark and I were asked to speak a total of 45 minutes on a doctrinal topic. I talked about the atonement and Mark talked about recognizing the Spirit. On Friday we got up early, drove to Cajamarca, (winding roads for 41/2 hours) and had another zone conference at Noon with the two zones in that area. Elder Waddell spent about 4 hours teaching and counseling the missionaries. I can't believe he was able to do that, but I know the Lord sustains His leaders.

What did I learn from this experience? The Lord LOVES missionaries. They are some of the best young people on earth doing the most important work, the work of salvation. It touched my heart that the Lord would send one of His special witnesses to teach and counsel the missionaries and to meet and greet each one individually. I believe it is the same thing the Lord would have done if He were here Himself. He taught the missionaries that our goal is not to only baptize people. Our goal is to facilitate true conversion to the gospel. We are trying to help people come unto Christ, be converted to the gospel and go to the temple and be sealed as a family for eternity. There is a big difference between baptisms and conversions!

Half the group on Wednesday, October 22, 2014

After the Zone Conference, Mark and I stayed in Cajamarca another two days for their Stake Conference. In the last week, Mark spoke nine times and I spoke seven. (We had a Stake Conference in Chiclayo last weekend also) It still terrifies me to get up and speak in Spanish, so that was a lot of terror to go through in one week. I really hope at some point it will get easier, but I am not there yet. Last weekend, I was asked to get up and share my feelings at the moment (twice) and that really terrified me. My husband had to give me a blessing before the evening meeting because I really felt I could not do that in Stake Conference. I prayed for my faith to be stronger, because I was very weak. (Ether 12:27) The Lord did strengthen me and I was able to do what I was asked to do. I could not have done it without the Lord's grace, the enabling and strengthening power of the atonement. Maybe I had that experience so I could bear a stronger testimony of the atonement at zone conference.

This week will mark our fourth month in Peru. This last month flew by because we were so busy. I feel like I was just writing about our 3 month anniversary. It has gone very fast but also very slow when we think of all we have done and experienced in just four months. It was interesting to be here in Peru for elections. We have been reading signs and bill boards since we have been here and have watched several political rallies. When we were in Jaen the last time, our hotel was right next to the city plaza, (almost every city in Peru has one, usually called Plaza de Armas) and they were having a huge rally until 1:00 in the morning with fireworks and loud music. We asked an employee at the hotel what the politicians are saying. He said, "I don't know. I don't really follow it. Blah, blah, blah!" That sounded just like the campaigns in the United States! The next weekend we were in Cajamarca, and again we were right next to the plaza and they were having the mother of all political rallies because it was the last night of campaigning. Tons of fireworks and music.

In Peru, elections are held on Sunday and the campaigns are closed the Thursday before election day. I guess that gives everyone two days to be quiet and have time to think. It is illegal for any meeting to be held on election day, so we could not even hold church. The election was held on Sunday, October 5. That was general conference. So the church could not have meetings in the church that day. Most of the missionaries had to wait until the following Sunday to see General Conference when it was broadcast in Peru. It was strange. Two weeks in a row without normal Sunday meetings.

Most of the people in Peru are very soft spoken, but they love to make noise in lots of other ways. A few include: honking horns, car horns, bike horns and any other kind. For a week after the elections, there was a protest going on at the election office which happens to be on our street. Apparently some of the voters believed that one of the men who won office had cheated in order to win. So they had three protests in one week for two hours. Somebody had this annoying horn that they honked for two hours straight. I really wanted to beat somebody up. They also use megaphones to get people's attention when they are trying to sell something, especially if it is something fresh like fish or fruits and vegetables. Anywhere you go in Peru, there are people selling things: washing cars in parking lots, selling treats or washing your wnidows at stoplights and street vendors everywhere. One night Mark and I bought some fried dough with cheese in the middle of it from a lady in front of our apartment. It was really good. They also make a hot drink from apples.

Peruvians also love fireworks and fire crackers. From what I have heard and seen, I don't think there are any laws governing them. There were fire crackers going off randomly in Cajamarca for three hours Friday night and then on Saturday too! Friday night I came home from the zone conference exhausted and feeling like I was getting sick. I was very weak and having chills. I just wanted to lay down and rest while my husband and Elder Waddell went to meet with the Stake President. As we walked to our room, we noticed the pool area was decorated and full of chairs and our room was right next to it. The bell boy mentioned something about something going on and said "Good luck." Oh yea, he was right! First there were just people talking and then at 8:00 pm the extremely loud music started. It was so loud! It turns out it was some kind of fashion show and they had models making strange

Common sight in Peru! There is a little tiny cart 
with bike wheels carrying a load of about 13 mattresses.
We thought this was pretty hilarious! Right in the middle
of downtown traffic! You just don't get to see stuff like this
in the United States. We are just too careful and proper.

poses and dancing. So much for a quiet evening of rest. I'm beginning to believe that does not exist here in Peru! I turned up the TV at first and then I gave in and just listened. At least it was American music. My body was too tired to care. After 30 minutes or so, I fell asleep in spite of the noise. I think the idea of "quiet hours" is a really good one. Thank goodness, the modeling was done by 10:00!

Monday, October 6, 2014

I wish that every member of the Church could hear Peruvian Saints sing "I Know that my Redeemer Lives." Two weeks in a row, we went to two different wards and they sang that hymn for the Sacrament hymn. I don't think I have ever heard that done in the United States, but it was so moving. The Spirit and the conviction with which they sang was so strong that I was moved to tears both times and was prompted to ponder what my Savior has done for me. There was no doubt that these saints knew and loved their Savior, Jesus Christ. I am so grateful that I know that my Redeemer Lives and that I know what he has done for me. Living in Peru and trying to teach and give talks in Spanish has been one of the hardst and most humbling things I have ever done in my life. There have been many moments when I have felt that I could just not do it anymore. I know that it is only through the grace of Jesus Christ, the enabling and strengthening power of the atonement, that I have been able to go forward at those times when I felt that I could not. I know that I have been given great strength and help.

As I get older and realize more and more how great my weaknesses are, I have grown to love the scriptures in Moroni 10:32-33. Moroni exhorts us to "Come unto Christ and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.

"And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot."

That gives me so much hope and so much comfort. We will never be perfect, but we are made perfect in Christ, through the shedding of His blood. All God asks is that we love Him and live a pure life. Then His grace is sufficient to make us perfect in Christ. When I think of all the spiritual, physical, mental and emotional weaknesses that I possess, I am so grateful for the knowledge that my Savior will make it all better for me. This is the message of the entire Book of Mormon, beautifully summed up by Moroni, a true disciple of Christ. I know that Jesus Christ lives and that he suffered and died for me. This is the atonement.

I know that I have not written for at least three weeks, so obviously we have been extremely busy. We had our second transfers. Eleven missionaries left to go home and 17 new missionaries came and joined us in the mission. Right after that, we started Zone Conferences. We left and went to Jaen for three days, interviewed 30 missionaries and had our Conference. It was wonderful. We don't get to see those missionaries very often because they are the furthest from Chiclayo. We got home on a Saturday and went out to dinner to celebrate my birthday which would be the next day. We ended up at the wrong restaurant (not the one we wanted to eat at) but since we were there we decided to stay. After we got seated, we realized that Sept. 27 was the three month anniversary of when we got to Peru and we were eating in the same restaurant that we ate in that first night. So it ended up being a great way to celebrate our three month anniversary and my 53rd birthday! The restaurant is called "Fiesta" and the food there is actually very good, the best in Chiclayo.

On Sunday, we celebrated with the office elders and a Tres Leche Cake which was really delicious. I really did not think I would like a soggy cake soaked in milk, but it is really quite yummy! Another delicious food here in Peru is Chinese Food. For some reason, Peruvians are very interested in the Chinese culture. There is even a special school here to learn about the Chinese culture, so there are many wonderful Chinese Restaurants. We actually have a really good one right next to our apartment building, so we can indulge very conveniently any time we want. I actually like the Chinese food better here in Peru because they do not batter and deep fry all the meat. They have a dish called "Pollo con Fruta", much like sweet and sour chicken in the States, but the chicken is not battered and fried and they put there own twist on it, adding peaches and some other fruits along with the pineapple. It is very rico (rich). That is how they describe good food here in Peru.

The following week we had three more Zone Conferences. Two multi-zone conferences with four zones each in Chiclayo, then the next day we left for Cajamarca for the last zone conference and interviews. On the way up the mountain to Chiclayo, we saw this cute man, that I am sure I have seen before. He was riding a donkey that was piled with sticks. There on top of the sticks sat this little man, but the really endearing thing was that he was riding backwards on the donkey. I'm not sure why, but he seemed to have perfect trust that the donkey knew where to go and what to do. We backed up to take his picture and when we did he waved and smiled. He was so adorable! My huaband said to him, "El burro sabe el camino, no?" The donkey knows the way! He just waved and smiled! Then it was really funny because on our way home we saw him again and he was riding the exact same way! We honked and waved again and he did the same!

You cannot tell in the picture, but this donkey was trotting 
at a really good pace. He knew exactly where he was going!
We lovingly call the man "Donkey Man" now!

One Sunday we visited a Family Group in a very small town called Cayalti. A Family Group is even smaller than a branch. Until we moved to Peru, we had no idea that such a group existed in the church. A Family Group has a leader and they are authorized to hold Sacrament meeting and take the Sacrament each Sunday. They can also hold a group Sunday School lesson, but they are not authorized to form organizations and quorums. We had the priviledge of joining them for Fast and Testimony Meeting and there was a great and strong spirit with these good people. The town of Cayalti was so small and the houses so close together that they all had their laundry sticking out from the front of their houses in way that we had never seen before. It looked like a colorful display of flags or banners or something, but it was laundry.

The little car in the foreground is a moto-taxi. They
are all over in Peru and a very common mode of

Laundry drying is a very common site in Peru, but 
in Chiclayo we are more modern so ours is on the

I guess we are the only home in Peru with a dishwasher. When we ran out of detergent we looked everywhere but could not find any. They finally had to order some from Lima for us. It took three weeks for it to get here. Who knew that dishwashing detergent is a luxury? If you saw the size of our dishwasher you might not think it is much of a luxury, but it holds at least 8 glasses and 8 dishes. We had carpet put in our bedroom, but have had a small problem. There are no vacuum cleaners in Chiclayo either. Sometimes I just really feel like we are living in a different world. Our maid had to get a picture frame special made for us. I kept thinking, can't we just go to Walmart and get one? But it's not that easy here.  If you need a birthday card, you have to make it yourself. My maid's daughter made me a really cute one!

Once I was interviewing an Hermana missionary from Bolivia. As we talked, she mentioned that she likes to cook. I asked her what a dish was that she liked to make. She described chopping up lots of vegetables like onions, tomatoes, carrots and celery and then sauteeing them in a pan. It sounded good to me. Then she said she chopped up something else and put it on top, but I did not recognize the word that she said. She tried to describe it to me. When she started pumping her fists up and down like a milking action, I realized she was trying to describe cow utter. I guess that is some kind of delicacy in Bolivia. I think she said the dish is called Pican Macho. I decided not to ask her for the recipe! 

The other day I was interviewing an elder and he said that he has never liked the food much here in Peru. I asked for examples of dishes that he does not like. He said, "I don't really like guinea pig." I just laughed because I don't like it either and I have never even tried it. Many times driving in the country you see carts or wagons loaded with corn stalks and I have been told that they sell them for people to feed to their guinea pigs to fatten them up.

When we were in Cajamarca interviewing the missionaries, I had such a good feeling inside about the missionaries in our mission. I truly believe that we have some of the best in the Church. They are such good obedient wonderful souls. This is not an easy mission. Our missionaries walk many miles on dirt roads and rocks, wear out their shoes and their feet, suffer back aches and eat very crude food sometimes. But they are so willing to sacrifice and so obedient to do what we ask them to do. Some people I have talked to like to focus on the disobedient missionaries and the unwise choices they make at times, but those cases are very few. We are so thankful to associate with such great souls in our mission. One missionary told me the other day that he can't believe he almost didn't come on a mission because of the wonderful people he would not have met. We feel the same way. We are making friendships with some choice young people that will last for the rest of our lives. We feel so priviledged to be here.

My 53rd Birthday in Peru!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Predicad mi Evangelio

Greenies. How can you not love them? They arrive with bewildered looks on their faces, but full of excitement and enthusiasm! A week ago Friday we had the most fun meeting I have ever been in. We invited all the new missionaries to come back in, after two and a half weeks in the field, and share what they are learning and experiencing. It was an eye opening experience. Our new missionaries had had a variety of experiences. A week after we sent them out, one of the missionaries called me and said he was sick with diarrhea. I went through the routine of what to do when you have diarrhea. After he hung up, I thought it was silly that he called because we had just gone through all of that a week ago at our welcome breakfast. Then the thought came to me that he had not just called because he did not know what to do, but because he needed to hear a friendly motherly voice reassuring him that everything was going to be okay. It reminded me to have love and compassion because you never know what someone might be feeling at any given moment.

We sent a group of four new missionaries to Jaen the day after transfers. We put them on a "combie" and they were supposed to meet their new companions in Jaen. Jaen is Northeast in the mission and a five to six hour bus ride from Chiclayo. It is more of a jungle region than we have here; more heat, humidity and trees. Two of the missionaries were Latinos, so they understood Spanish and we figured they would be fine and know what to do. But somehow they did not understand the message to get off the bus in Jaen. They continued to ride for another two hours before they realized they had missed the stop. They went to a place called Bagua Chica where there is a small branch. It was too late for them to get a bus back, so they had to spend the night with members in the area. Thank goodness for the church. There is always someone to help no matter where you end up!

One of our new missionaries was bit by a dog a week after he came to the mission. What a welcome! He is receiving tetanus and rabies shots now. He told me that they don't hurt too much though. What a nice way to start the mission. Another sprained his ankle. Apparently, he injured it in the CCM (missionary training in Lima) and now had reinjured it. He was not happy to use crutches. It's not easy to use crutches in places without sidewalks or pavement. Now he was not just the greenie, gringo and redhead to make fun of, but the greenie, gringo, redhead with crutches. (That's exactly what he told us) Another elder tried to expain how rural the area is that he is serving in. He said there was a sign that said "House for sale" and it was in front of a pile of bricks! Only in Peru!

These missionaries sacrifice their time and their life, but also their bodies. Our missionaries walk everywhere. They have no cars or bikes. They walk miles everyday. We have had 3 missionaries with in-grown toenails (one had his whole toenail removed), 3 sprains, 5 with back pain (one had to go home), several with knee pain and, one with a strained wrist, and, of course, 20-30 with stomach problems. The elder who was bit by the dog, has now been battling diarrhea for a week. We have been praying for him a lot. This was all in the last two months. This does not include the coughs, fevers, headaches etc.

Last Friday I got to experience what the missionaries do everyday and I understood why they don't just pack up and go home. It's because they preach the gospel of Jesus Christ everyday and they know it is true and they feel the Spirit and they are sustained by the atonement of Jesus Christ. Friday, I had the opportunity to go out with two of our best sister missionaries and teach and make contacts with them. It was incredible, one of the best days I have had and the first time I really felt like I was a real missionary. I went out with them for six hours, 2:30-8:30. That's what our missionaries do. They eat their main meal from 1:00-2:00 and then they go out and work nonstop for six to seven hours. They do not eat until 8:30 at night because that is the custom here and the hours before are prime proselyting hours. This is one of the poorest areas in Chiclayo, so we did a lot of walking mostly on dirt roads. It was extremely windy and cold that day which made it a little more challenging.

It was one of the greatest experiences I have had in my life, as far as what I learned and experienced about another culture and about what it is like to be a missionary. I never had the opportunity to serve a mission myself, so this was all a new experience for me. The first house we went to was the most poor, humble home I have ever entered in my life. There were three rooms for seven people who lived there. The front room had a bunk bed with dirty mattresses and no sheets, a bench and three chairs, a small table and a dresser. No couch or kitchen table or anything comfortable. The walls were cement and the roof was tin, The front room was also storage for bikes, buckets, etc.

The next room was very small; a bunk bed, and a small dresser with a small TV on top. The kitchen was even smaller. It had a stove, a metal table and a faucet in the back corner for water. I am hoping there was a bathroom behind that wall, but I am not sure. When we got there, these humble people who had practically nothing, were preparing a meal for us. I can't remember what they called it, but it was corn meal with chicken and onions that had been fried in oil. They spread the corn meal in a corn husk, put in a spoonful of the meat mixture, covered it with more corn meal and then wrapped the corn husk and another corn husk around that. Then they were all boiled in water with more corn husks covering it to steam them.

While they cooked, we had our lesson, which was about being converted to the gospel. They have a son who joined the church and immediately went inactive and has told them some crazy ideas about the church.  One of the daughters had later joined the church. She was married (Flor) and had a baby. The mom, another daughter and two other boys are not members, yet. The lesson the sisters shared was about being truly converted. I think they were trying to contrast their inactive son and someone who is really converted. It was good and I got to share things that I do everyday because I am converted. I did okay, but I said "I am bringing" to be like Jesus Christ instead of "I am trying" to be like Jesus Christ. I hope they got my message.

Next we went to a member's home to take her with us to the lesson of a neighbor. This home was smaller than the first and had mud walls. I had never seen anything like that. Even with the mud walls, I could feel the Spirit in her home and I knew that she loved the gospel. There were pictures of Christ, church pictures, a Family Home Evening chart, a scripture reading chart, etc. hung all over the walls in the tiny front room in her house. She came out and quickly left to go put on a skirt so she would look nice, then she combed her hair in front of a small mirror on the wall right by the door. I noticed a dresser next to that and there were a few hair accessories to fix hair with. I knew that she took pride in caring for her family and making sure they looked nice. She told us she had been doing the laundry, which I am sure was by hand. Her three children looked clean and nice. One of the sister's told me that the children never had much to eat; a plate of rice with a few beans.

The next home was all cement and pretty dirty, but it seemed like a palace compared to where we had been. This woman (Cynthia) had a kitchen table and chairs and a refrigerator, but no couch or any luxuries. She did have a TV on top of the refrigerator since it was the only other piece of furniture. She had two daughters, one and six years of age. It is very common for people to live together in Peru because getting married is expensive and a lot of paperwork. The father of this woman's children had just left her three months before. I am not sure how she will survive, but she seemed to be doing okay. We taught her a lesson about Christ and bore our testimonies of Him. She obviously loved Jesus Christ and even had a big picture of Him. The sisters invited her to church on Sunday and she accepted the invitation even though they would leave at 7:30 am to get there. She was not real excited about that!

Next we made a few street contacts and they were able to set up one appointment for the next day. We visited a lady (Betty) who is less active. She was not there, so we decided to go see another less active. We headed in the direction of her house and after walking about three blocks we happened to run into Betty, who then took us back to her house. I think those sisters were in tune with the Spirit. They had no idea they were heading in the same direction where they would meet Betty. Betty had two daughters and a very beautiful small home with tile floors and nice furniture. It was quite a contrast from the other three homes we had been in. The sisters taught her a lesson about the importance of the sacrament and going to church on Sunday. I was very impressed how each of the lessons taught were geared to the needs of each person they would be teaching that day. I made another mistake and told her I love to "touch" (tocar) the Sacrament each week rather than I love to "take" (tomar) the Sacrament each week. I did correct myself immediately which was better than the last time.

Our last appointment was the best. The sisters have been teaching another woman named Flor who married into a mormon family. The whole family are members except for the oldest brother, who is Flor's husband. Both of his sisters and his brother are returned missionaries. How he has never joined the church is a mystery to me, but his wife, Flor, is very interested and it is having a big influence on him. She has been reading the Book of Mormon and it is softening her heart. She told us that when she first started reading the book, it was to prove that it was not true, but then she started reading things that she really liked, like chapter 32 about planting the seed of the word in your heart. That is exactly what she has been doing and the seed of the word is growing and becoming very "delicious" to her. It is such a miracle how the words of the Book of Mormon can be such a great influence. She shared Alma 32:21 with us, that faith is not to have a perfect knowledge, but you hope for things that are not seen. She really liked that.

                                          Trying to teach the missionaries in Spanish. I do
                                           a much better job in English! This is Leadership
                                           Training Council. It is held the first Tuesday of
                                            every month.

Her husband was late in joining us because he is a policeman and had just gotten off work when we got there. She shared Alma 32:32-34 with him, that we should not procrastinate the day of our repentance or it might be too late, and he liked that. I noticed that he picked up the book and started marking the scripture. He was trying to understand who I was and the sisters were trying to explain. Then he asked me, "So you know ALOT about the gospel?" How do you answer that? I decided to be honest and replied, "Yes, yes I do" Then he asked, "So you know ALOT more than these sisters do." I said, "Of course!" We all laughed. Later, as we talked more, I could feel the Spirit growing in the room. One of the sisters said, "You know you've got six missionaries in this room teaching you!" Both of the sisters bore their testimonies and I knew that I had to bear mine. It was a great experience and I know the Spirit bore witness of the things we said. I felt like that was the best I had ever born my testimony of the Book of Mormon before and I felt like all the preparation in reading the Book of Mormon my whole life and studying Spanish were just for that moment. I am sure I will have more esperiences like that, but I still believe that I have prepared for moments just like that and it made it all work and diligence seem well worth it.

I know that the Book of Mormon is true. It has been the greatest blessing in my life of anything else I have ever done. It has been the answer for me in all of my challenges. I read it for the first time when I was fifteen years old. I wanted to have a profound experience like many that I had heard in the church where I would read it and then pray about it and have a great witness of its truth. But everyday when I read, I felt the Spirit emanating from that great book and when I got done reading it, I already knew it was true. It was translated by a prophet named Joseph Smith. I know that he was and is a prophet of God. I know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth and that it has been restored to bless our lives. I know that anyone who reads the Book of Mormon with an honest heart will know that it is true. I know that it will bless the lives of those who partake of it on a daily basis. It is the sacred fruit of the prophet Joseph Smith and bears witness that he was chosen by God to do His work.

 After a Sister Training Leader Meeting

                                           This is how small villages start. Someone picks a
                                            spot and starts building little shacks. Notice the
                                            garbage pile; typical in the Chiclayo area, but not
                                            the rest of Peru.

Friday, August 29, 2014

We are missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints and we know that it is our Savior, Jesus Christ, that we serve. We would not be so far from our family and our home if we did not know that this is His true gospel that has been restored to the earth in the Latter days. Anyone can know if this is true by praying about it and reading the Book of Mormon. Some good people that we have talked to have told us that they already know Jesus Christ and have accepted Him as their Savior. But we say to you, that if you want to feel even closer to Jesus Christ and understand His atonement, then you can read the Book of Mormon and go to the Sunday services of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints. You will feel closer to Jesus Christ and understand his atonement in a way that you never have before in your life. If you truly love Jesus Christ, then we are sure that you would want this. I know that the Book of Mormon is true and that it is a witness of Christ unlike anything else on this earth. It was translated by a prophet of God, Joseph Smith, and we have a living prophet on the earth today. We invite everyone to find out if these things are true.

                                          President and Sister Nuñez, our traveling companions.
                                          President Nuñez works for the church. He is over all
                                          the facilities in Chiclayo. He has actually helped us a lot
                                          with our apartment.

This place is starting to grow on me. It hit me last Sunday as we were driving home from a Conference. It's hard to explain, but it just felt like everything was the way it was supposed to be. Despite the garbage, the dust, the traffic, and the not so great food, it is definitely a unique and interesting place. If it was just like home and there were no challenges, then it would not be a great experience. One thing I find interesting is that many people who own a business, here in Peru, run it from their own home. Also, there are stores and businesses all over the place that are extremely hard to find and that you would never know were there. One day we went to a popular bakery, our maid had told us about, to buy a cake for a birthday. We had to ask other people where it was in order to find it. It was tucked away in a residential area between homes, with no sign. A lot of advertising here is done by word of mouth.

We were in Cajamarca last week and visited the home of one of our pensionistas (women who serve meals to the missionaries in their homes.) This woman and her family own a bakery. The bakery is in front of the home. Behind is the kitchen with dirt and concrete floors, no countertops and no refrigerator. Across from the kitchen was a huge room with a wood burning oven. There was only a huge old table covered in flour to do the kneading and mixing on. There were many wood shelves full of fresh rolls, pastries and croissants. We were given moon shaped bread that had a sweet caramel type of filling inside, similar to manjar blanco, which is very popular here. The bread was warm and delicious. Who would think that in this primitive place, something so wonderful could be created? The pensionista just kept giving us more and more bread to eat. We could not resist because it was dinner time, we were hungry, and it was so delicious. The living quarters were somewhere behind the business. It was very interesting. Sometimes the home is upstairs over the business. 

The next day we had a training meeting for all the pensionistas. This same woman attended and when asked to write down her name on a list, she asked another woman to write it for her. She declined the booklet that we handed out to all the pensionistas. I realized that she could not read or write and yet, she can make delicious fresh bread. What an amazing talent! I assume she does not need to refer to a recipe. She has an incredible gift that makes many people happy, including the missionaries. We met her four year old son, who had his growth stunted from an operation. He is the size of a one-two year old, but speaks and acts like a four year old. I watched him use his "freezing powers" on one of the missionaries. He was so dang cute!

Last week we were on the road for five days in a row. It was rewarding, but tiring. We drove to Cajamarca on Wednesday, had a meeting until 9:00 pm, then ate fruit and chips for dinner. My diet has definitely taken a turn for the worse! Thursday morning we had another training meeting, then spent the rest of the day driving all over Cajamarca looking at apartments for new missionaries coming to the area. Of the four rooms that we had appointments to look at, we only saw one. The owners had many varied reasons why we could not look at them. We also inspected some of the missionarie's apartments. For the most part they were pretty clean and well cared for. But very small. At one apartment a little dirty puppy started following us and crying. I did not know how to help him. I don´t know if there are any animal shelters in Peru

.                                         Views of the Andes mountains on the highway to

We had our pensionista training meeting on Friday, then had the best turkey sandwich that I think I have had in my life, or at least it tasted like it at the moment. I had been craving a turkey sandwich ever since we came here, but they are very hard to find. There are two chains of grocery stores here. They are called Metro and Tottus. All of the malls here have a grocery store in them. So we went to the mall in Cajamarca and there was a huge Metro. That is where I found the turkey sandwich. There was a fresh roasted turkey sitting right in the window of the deli and it said, "Sandwich de pavo." (turkey sandwich) I could not believe it. So all four of us that were traveling together got one. The woman who made them took great pride in making them perfect. She grilled the turkey with a traditional hot sauce called "rojos", then put it on bread with mayonnaise, mustard, tomatoes and lettuce. It tasted so good!

After lunch, we made the long windy drive home. We were pretty worn out when we got home Friday evening and yet, my poor husband had three talks to prepare for a District Conference on Saturday and Sunday.  We have two districts in our mission. They are made up of branches and function much like a stake, except that the District President has limited responsibilities. Mark is considered the Stake President and has to do all temple recommend interviews, other interviews, church courts and District Conferences.

                                                    Check out the bottom of the pink box.
                                                    Preside: Pdte Mark L. Williams
So, on Saturday, we left again to go to the Guadalupe District Conference. Mark had a Priesthood Training Meeting and we did a training meeting with all the women leaders in the District; Relief Society, Primary and Young Women. Mark assured me that I was just to attend and that the other three women were going to do the training. I sat talking with these women for an hour and a half before the meeting and then one minute before it started, they asked if I would give a welcome to the women! It really would have been nice to have a little more notice when I do not know the language very well! I do not understand the way things are done here sometimes! I am learning to just be prepared anywhere I go. I am developing a whole file of talks and testimonies.

                                          Sister Nuñez and I. She is gorgeous and has been very
                                           kind and helpful to me. Wish I could communicate
                                           better with her.

I had a very interesting and surprising experience because they asked another American lady to come and translate for me and to help with the meeting. We started talking and she casually asked me where I grew up. I said that I grew up in Modesto, CA. She said, "Really!? I lived there for a few years!" She moved there after I had already left and got married and my family had moved also, but it turns out that she was in my former ward and lived on the same street where I grew up! Then she said that we probably knew some of the same people and asked, "Do you know the Jeppsons?" I just started to laugh. Many of you know that Leslie Jeppson was and is my best friend and that her parents were like second parents to me growing up. I just love them dearly. Well, apparently, after her mission to Texas, this woman had babysat Leslie's kids and they became very good friends. Her maiden name was Amy Haight. She is married now to a Peruvian man that lived in the United States for fifteen years. It is such a small world in the church! Unbelievable!

So I sat in this room on extremely uncomfortable hard chairs for three and a half hours. The women's meeting started thirty minutes late and got out late, five minutes before the Adult Evening Session. Sitting for so many hours (including the 11/2 hour drive there) made it kind of a long night, but the talks were excellent. The other speakers got a little long-winded and did not leave any time for Mark to speak. He literally spoke for three minutes. It was late and the saints were spent, so he did the right thing. Despite being short, it was actually an amazing talk and several members told him they would never forget that talk. He gave a quote by Elder Bednar saying that we are not the ones hastening the work, the Lord is the one hastening the work. Then he asked all of his missionaries to stand up. (I forgot to stand up. I keep forgetting that I am a missionary too!) All of the fulltime missionaries stood up. Then he said it again, "Will all of my missionaries stand up!" One lady finally got it and stood up and the rest of the congregation followed and stood up also. It was a memorable lesson for everyone there!

After the meeting, my new friend Amy, asked Mark if he knew anyone who played the piano. He said, "Yea, my wife!" The San Pedro Branch had gotten a choir together and had practiced three numbers for the Conference, but did not have anyone to play the piano, so I had the priviledge of playing for them. It was a wonderful experience and so fun practicing with them. They knew the songs well and sang with all their hearts. I got goosebumps as they sang "The Spirit of God." It is one Spanish hymn that is almost better in the translation. The chorus ends up rhyming as they sing, "Cantemos, Gritemos!" (We sing, we shout!) I think I will always love that hymn in Spanish from now on!

My new friend Chandre. He really liked me and was
going to take my picture, but I invited him to be in the
photo with me.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
The Conference was wonderful! Mark and I were the concluding speakers. We both felt that the Lord blessed us so much with our talks. This was the first "real" talk that I have given and I was nervous, but the Lord gave me so much strength. I did not falter or lose my place one time and I was speaking in a foreign tongue. It was truly amazing! Mark said that my talk was a miracle and it really was! He also felt the Lord's help as words came to him in a rapid way that he had never felt before. His talk truly was powerful and so inspiring. Inactivity is a big problem here in Peru. There are 3,000 members in this District and only 500 of them are active. He asked the members to pray about at least one person that they could reach out to and rescue. The "rescatar" is receiving a big push from the Area Presidency here in our Area. It is what they have asked us to do and I have learned that my husband always does what he is asked to do! We are seeing miracles in the work here and know that they will continue as we do the                                                                     Lord's will.