Thursday, July 31, 2014

Los Misioneros

One Hundred Twenty. What does that number mean? It is not a percentage or a statistic. It is the number of missionaries that Mark and I interviewed last week; twenty four a day for five days in a row. It was incredible, but it was not easy. Especially in Spanish. Most of the time I can get the gist of what the misionaries are saying; most of the time. Then I go out and try to follow a conversation and I cannot understand a word that is being said. I know that the Lord continues to bless me and help me with the things that I really need to do.

So last week we went to a store called "Makro". It is the Peruvian equivalent of Costco in the United States. It has some products in bulk and some individual. Many that we would never use. We made three great finds; an air popper (that does not work very well), frozen berries and chocolate chips! They are a little different from Nestles, but they actually worked quite well. So, at the last minute, I decided to make chocolate chip cookies for some of the missionaries. As they came in for their interview, I presented them with one chocolate chip cookie. That was the best I could do with short notice. The reaction to those cookies was priceless.

                                           View from our apartment.

                                           View from our apartment.
                                          View from our apartment.
                                            Our lovely median. The truck is going over a rompe
                                             muelle (speed bump). There are no speed limits, just
                                             speed bumps right in the middle of the road to slow
                                             traffic down.

Some of these missionaries had never tasted a homemade chocolate chip cookie before. In South America, they are not really big on using ovens because they feel like the energy use is just too expensive and wasteful. So most do not do a lot of baking. One Latin sister took a few bites and said, "These cookies are going to be famous in Peru!" Several asked me how I made them. Another sister, later in the day, said, "These cookies are already famous!" Word was getting around that you got a delicious cookie at your interview. The North American,s reaction was the same, because they had not eaten a homemade cookie for so long. There was one elder who reached slowly toward the plate and I could swear that his hand was shaking. His only comment was "Oooooooooh!"

One thing that was impressed greatly on my mind  last week is that these humble obedient missionaries sacrifice a lot to serve their missions. Our missionaries in Peru do not cook for themselves. They have what is called a "pensionista". This is basically a person who cooks their meals for them and sometimes does their laundry. They go to the home of their pensionista for all their meals. Most of the missionaries do not have kitchens in their apartments so they are at the mercy of the pensionista for what they eat each day. They usually do not have any say about the menu. There are some exceptions. Peruvians eat a lot of rice and chicken. Most of the missionaries get huge piles of rice everyday. And they do not get to serve their own food and they are expected to eat whatever is on their plate. If not the pensionista may be offended and think they do not like the food. Sometimes they get a plate with rice, potatoes and pasta! Imagine what that would do to your system!
                                          Our driveway to the parking garage.

About two weeks ago, we had a sister with a doctor,s appointment that was late in the evening. It was too late and dangerous for she and her companion to make the two hour journey back to their area, so we invited them to stay the night with us. I cannot even tell you what a treat that was for them. They mentioned how they missed eating peanut butter. I casually said that I had peanut butter and they were welcome to have some. Their eyes lit up and they were almost jumping up and down. Then I casually asked if they would like it on toast. They both exclaimed, "Warm toast?" They could not believe it! They continued to react the same to cold milk, cold water and german pancakes with syrup. How many of us jump up and down at the thought of peanut butter or warm toast? I was so touched by their excitement for these foods we take for granted everyday.

Most of our missionaries do not have warm water either. One day I had this conversation with a missionary. Missionary: "We don,t have any warm water when we shower. There is a little heater there in the shower, but if you use it, you run the risk of an electrical shock while you are showering." Me: "An electrical shock!! That,s horrible!" Missionary: "It,s not a really big shock, but I do prefer the cold water rather than the shock." Me: "How can you take cold showers?" Missionary: "That,s just Peru!" We visited a sister apartment one day.  It was decent, neat and clean. But extremely bare. Three rooms: "living room", bedroom and bathroom. Furniture: two beds, two dressers, bookshelf, table and two chairs. At the time we visited them, they had two extra sisters from another area staying with them. One sister had a foot problem, so she needed both the chairs in order to keep her foot elevated. The others got to sit on the bed or stand. I was wondering where the comfortable couch was to chill on!

The missionaries in our mission are not allowed to drive. It is amazing how they manage to get around and go where they need to go. A very popular mode of travel here in Peru is called a "Combi". This is a large van that operates like a bus. The Combis have no schedule. You go to the Combi stop and you wait until one shows up. Then you wait until the Combi is full with other passengers. They will not leave until it is full. Every single seat.Then you drived over bumpy roads in an extremely full van with no air conditioning, of course! For many missionaries, this is a two hour trip. One missionary told me that in order to get to the interview, he and his companion had to ride in a Combi, then on a motorcycle "thing", and then take a taxi. What an adventure!
                                          The van on the road is a Combi. They are everywhere!

Now as I write of these experiences, once again I am touched by the dedication of these missionaries. All of our missionaries are willing to work and to sacrifice so much! Mark and I live in luxury compared to these missionaries. We have a three bedroom apartment with tile, two couches (plus chairs), warm water and a fully stocked kitchen. The inconveniences we have experienced are nothing compared to our valient missionaries.

I have interviewed many missionaries who are the only member of the church in their family. One of these missionaries told me how hard the first four months of his mission have been because he has received no support from his family. They are not happy he is serving and have not written him one time. I told him that the Lord knows him and the struggles he is having. I told him that the Lord knows of his sacrifice and that he will be blessed for it. It was a very tender moment for both of us as the Spirit bore witness to this truth. Maybe I needed to remember this also.This could be said of every missionary in our mission, or in the world, for that matter. The Lord knows them and what they are doing and he will not leave them comfortless. He will bless them and prosper them for what they have doing.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Los Santos de Peru

There is nothing that happens fast in Chiclayo, Peru. Nobody is ever in a hurry (except when they are driving!) For instance, if you ever need to eat on the road, you just know it will take an hour to an hour and a half. There is really no such thing as fast food. There is a McDonalds and KFC at the mall, but it is a totally inconvenient location. Also, when you order juice to drink, they make it right then, so it takes 15 minutes to get a drink of juice. It is inconvenient, but on the other hand, you know it is really fresh! We have had papaya, pineapple and limeade made this way. Another interesting thing, is that Peruvians do no like to drink their drinks cold. So a lot of times the juice is room temperature. Some classier restaurants will ask if you want the juice cold and bring ice. You always have to ask to get ice! Several people have told me this is because most Peruvians believe that cold drinks will give you a sore throat or make you sick, so they prefer to drink them warm.

I have talked a lot about foods I do not like, so here are some that I do like. I love the fresh limeade! I have been sick twice since we have been here, both times on a trip, and the fresh limeade was the only thing that sounded good to me at all. The seafood here is delicious, very fresh and prepared perfectly. They have a dish with rice and mariscos or camarones (shellfish or shrimp) with yummy corn and peas and good seasonings; I think it has curry and some other things. The most interesting thing that I think we have tried is a juice called chicha morada (purple corn juice). In the grocery stores, you see large amounts of this dried purple corn that I could not imagine how they ever made it appetizing to eat. Then I learned that they make purple juice with it. They boil the corn and season it with cinnamon and cloves and then strain it, and of course they add sugar, to get this unique juice which is really quite tasty. We tried it at a restaurant and we liked it!

I love to hear Peruvians talk. Most of them speak such beautiful Spanish. The way they roll their r,s is amazing! (By the way, there is no apostrophe on our Spanish keyboard) One word I have learned is "chevere". It is the equivalent of saying "cool" in English. I am curious if they say it in Chile also (I always forget to ask Eric.) It does not translate to any other meaning. The day we were in Chachapoyas, there were two hermanas at the church building waiting for an institue class to begin. Here in Peru, institute is usually on Saturday night. The girls were 19 and 20 years old, but looked much younger. One was studying to be a veterinary and one to be a lawyer. Pretty impressive, just like most LDS young adults! They began talking to me and were very interested in me, maybe because I am an "American". They were very patient in listening to my very slow Spanish. I noticed after one of my comments that the one girl said "chevere". I was flattered that she thought something I said was "chevere" and I felt pretty "chevere" because I knew what the word meant!

This past weekend I have been touched by the kindness and love of the members here. Saturday, I had a little extra time and I really wanted to get my hair cut. Of course, I had no idea where to go. I thought of a sister I met at a dinner, Sister Gonzales. She is the wife of our Stake President and our neighbor. She had assured me several times that she would be happy to help me with anything that I needed. I had Mark call her and ask her where I could get my haircut. She told Mark she would be happy to pick me up and take me to a place she knew of to get it cut. I was touched by her kindness, but the story gets even better. You have to understand that most women in Peru do not drive and I have not even driven a car since we have been here, which seems so strange now that I am writing it. So this sweet sister comes to my 7th story apartment, and escorts me downstairs where I find my Stake President waiting in the car to take us to the hairdresser! I was already feeling bad for inconveniencing them and then the sister tells me that they have been busy getting ready for a huge birthday party they are having for their four year old son which starts in one hour! So these very kind people literally dropped everything they were doing to come and help me. Sister Gonzales went to the hairdresser with me, sat there with me and explained to the lady what I wanted. Then President Gonzalez came back and picked us up and drove us home. I am still overwhelmed as I think about these kind gestures from these people. There are definitely some choice saints here in this area.

                                         Visiting the Coast after a ward conference. Our kids
                                          say all we do is relax on the beach!

Sunday, (July 20th) was the most choice experience I have had on this mission thus far. It was so unexpected. I had actually been feeling a little bit useless the day before and wondering what I can contribute when I cannot speak the language. I prayed and asked Heavenly Father why I am here and what I can do. Saturday night we attended the longest baptism known to men. Baptisms here never start on time and when they finally do start, after they have finally gotten everyone assembled in the chapel, then they say for anyone who would like to take pictures to leave and go out in the foyer. This baptism was supposed to start at 7:30 pm and finally began at 8:30 pm. Remember, nothing ever happens fast and nobody is ever in a hurry. So, after six speakers and singing a dozen different songs, we got home pretty late. We were supposed to leave for a Branch Conference early, so I knew it was going to be a long day.

My prayer Sunday morning was to just have the strength to make it through the day. We left at 7:15 am and drove a little under two hours to a small town called Guadalupe and attended  the Guadalupe, Peru Branch. They had a very nice chapel and I noticed right away that these people were special. They were all dressed perfectly; even the little boys were in suits and ties. Sometimes, this is unusual in Peru. Mark and I were sitting on the stand and I was marveling at how wonderful these people looked and I noticed an older gentleman sitting on the front row. He had on an unusual tie and at first I thought it was kind of hideous. It was a sky blue color with some big picture on it. Then I looked closer and realized it was a picture of the Salt Lake Temple! I was overcome. I thought of this humble man who I am sure has never and will never see the Salt Lake Temple in real life and yet here he was wearing its picture on his tie and obviously had a great love for this temple!

That morning the Spirit was strong and I felt the great love that the Lord has for these humble saints. Living the gospel is not always easy for them. They only go the temple once a year. They drive 12 hours on a bus to Lima on a Friday night, get there on Saturday morning, do temple work all day and then drive back on Saturday night to be home in time for church on Sunday. I felt the love these people have for the Lord and His gospel. They want to do their part. The feelings I had that day were tender and overwhelming. It was not easy to speak when I bore my testimony, but I knew what the Lord wanted me to say. I am so grateful that the Spirit is the teacher and the testifier and somehow I was able to convey to these people how the Lord feels about them in my broken Spanish. He loves them beyond comprehension, so it was easy for me to love them too. It was a miraculous day in so many ways.

                                 These are my new friends, the sisters of the Guadalupe Branch.
                                 The sister on my right is the wife of Mark's 1st counselor and the
                                 one on the left with flowers is the Relief Society President. Notice
                                 the flowers added for a touch of beauty! Relief Society sisters
                                 think the same all over the world!


Monday, July 21, 2014

Physical and Spiritual Nourishment

The food and water in Peru are a big problem, especially for foreigners who are not used to it. It is horrible to see what some of the American missionaries suffer because of it. We have an hermana who has had parasites, salmonella, stomach infections, etc. for the whole year that she has been here. We have another hermana in the hospital right now who has been throwing up for three weeks as well as dizzy and light headed. She was just diagnosed with a parasite. Last weekend we were staying in a hotel in Jaen. I rinsed out a glass in the faucet and left it sitting on the counter. By the time we got back in the evening there was already mold growing in it. The water is contaminated with bacteria and parasites.

The food here is very different than in the United States. The supply and variety are very limited compared to what we are used to. We are so very blessed in our country. Foods not available; lemons, lemon juice, berries, frozen vegetables or fruit of any kind, chocolate chips, cottage cheese, sour cream, cream cheese, good cheddar cheese, tortilla chips and tortillas. I am afraid I will discover more. I already miss Mexican food so much! The dairy aisle has milk, yogurt (which you drink), butter and margarine. It is a struggle to come up with of ideas for what to fix. We do have spaghetti and pasta. Mark would be lost without that! The canned fruits are pears, peaches, pineapple, cherries, and apricots. Our purple smoothie with spinach has become a true green smoothie in some strange lime color of green. I am substituting pineapple for berries now. I tried to buy four cans of pineapple at the grocery store and they said I could only buy two!? They did not say why.

There are four foods here that missionaries are never supposed to eat; ceviche (a favorite food here that is a cold soup with raw fish), strawberries (the only berry availabe here), pork, and lettuce, so no salads. The staples of the Peruvian diet are chicken, rice, chicken, eggs, and chicken. I have always loved chicken but I am pretty tired of it right now. They are also obssessed with french fries, which are usually greasy and soggy. I used to have a weakness for french fries, but it is gone now. And here is the killer; I have not had one peice of chocolate that I have liked and wanted more of. Is anyone getting a sense of the items that are on my wish list? That is if you happen to be sending a package. Sees Candy and chocolate chips are pretty high on the list!

I have to mention what we did last weekend because our schedule was insane. We made another six hour trip to a city called Jaen. Jaen is in the jungle part of the country, so it is quite hot, humid, lush and green. We traveled a lot of windy roads again. It is not as touristy as Cajamarca, so a bit more primitive. Our hotel was interesting. No electricity in the bathroom, no blowdryer and crunchy towels. People in this country are very frugal and dryers are considered a luxury. Our maid does not believe in drying our towels in the dryer or using the dishwasher, in fact, she is literally the dish washer in our house. She insists on washing everything by hand even though we had a new dishwasher installed just before we came here. It is the first thing she does every morning and she gets very upset if I even try to rinse a dish off. My body is literally going to pot because I never do any housework.

We arrived in Jaen at 5:00 pm and did interviews from 5:00-9:00pm. The role of the Mission Presidents wife has changed in recent years and I have the priviledge of interviewing the missionaries also. We finally had dinner at 9:30 and then to bed at 10:30. The next morning was zone conference at 8:30 am, then more interviews from 2:00-7:00 pm. Dinner at 8:00. Home by 9:00. The next morning we left Jaen and drove to a city called Bagua Grande where we have a branch and interviewed six missionaries. Then drove three hours to Chachapoyas, another branch, and interviewed eight missionaries. Both of these branches meet in very humble circumstances. The building in Bagua Grande is not even completely enclosed. Next, we left Chachapoyas at 6:30 pm and drove back to Jaen. Home at 10:00, dinner and bed at 11:00.

                             This is mark eating his first Peruvian hamburger. They were disgusting,
                               but we were so hungry! I am not sure what we were really eating!

We have felt a lot of opposition since starting this new calling. The parking situation at these hotels is always very cramped and enclosed in a locked gate. All of the churches here have locked gates around them as well. The morning of our zone conference, the car parked behind us had a dead battery. We were twenty minutes late. Then on Sunday, our credit card would not work so we could not pay our hotel bill and check out. That was another ordeal and again we were twenty minutes late for church. That seems to be our standard time now, always twenty minutes late. By some miracle, they were just beginning to pass the bread and we were able to take the sacrament. That was very important to us. We felt it was a great blessing.

 After the sacrament, the bishopric welcomed us and invited us to come and sit on the stand; then informed us they would like us to speak for fifteen minutes. Panic set in for me. Speaking on the spur of the moment is not very easy for me in Spanish. Somehow, I managed, with the Lords help and a little bit of time because of a youth speaker, to get my thoughts and words together. Mark said it was one of the best talks I have given. When I thought back about it, I could not even remember exactly what I had said. I know I was blessed with the gift of tongues in the very moment when I needed to open my mouth and speak. The Lord has been so merciful to us despite the great opposition we have felt in doing this work. That is what gives us the strength to carry on: The love and help of our Lord Jesus Christ in doing His work, the work of salvation.

                                          Just another road trip! Elde Noriega is not Saudi Arabian,
                                          he just hates the sun! That is a pillow case on his head.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


Every city in Peru has a nickname.  Chiclayo is the city of "Friendship" because the people here are so kind and friendly.  A week ago today, Monday the 7th, Mark and I made a five hour drive on winding roads to return from a four day trip to Cajamarca.  It is one of the zones in our mission.  We were tired, but really needed a few things we had not had time to get since being in Peru. So we went to the mall. It took us 45 minutes, and asking three people, just to find it. We shopped for three hours (there is even a grocery store at the mall) and we were exhausted.  We went out to our car, only to find out that we had left the lights on and our battery was dead. Of course! It seems that anything that can go wrong does on this mission. We asked a passing store employee for help and he said that he would get a parking lot attendant to help us. The attendant brought a battery charging box, but it would not work. Now more attendants came. They decided to push our car out of the parking spot and bring their car to charge the battery since we had the cables. The attendant informed Mark that this would cost 10 soles, which is not too much, only $3.70. So they got the car running and the other attendant told Mark he owed 20 soles, $7.40. We were not very happy. It is still not a lot, but twice the amount we were told in the beginning. We are learning that once people know you are American, they try to take you for all they can get! We felt so warm and welcomed. I am praying really hard for the gift of charity.

Despite being so kind and friendly, Chiclayo is a very dirty city. Many of the streets are dirt roads with large rocks and huge potholes, so dirt is just part of life here. The first night we were here, I made the mistake of walking on our floor barefoot for a few minutes. By the time I went to bed, my feet were black! We know now to wear shoes at all times. Oh, and there is no carpet here; not in our apartment or in any of the churches or anywhere. I guess they would just be too filthy? I am not sure why. When you drive around the city, there are piles of garbage everywhere. Nobody seems to really care. The previous mission president told us it was a dirty city and now we understand.

Our first week in the mission we had meetings almost everyday.  The first Tuesday we had a Mission Leadership Council which is held monthly, the first Tuesday of every month. This is a newer meeting that replaced Zone Leader Council a little over a year ago. The biggest change is that Sister Missionaries are now called as Sister Training Leaders and are part of the council along with the Mission Presidents Wife. They have responsibility for sisters assigned to them, for training, and to conduct exchanges every six weeks with other sisters in their zone. We feel like this is an inspired change and that the sisters add so much to the meetings. They have such good and unique insights and such wonderful spirits.

The next two days we had Multi-Zone Conferences with four zones each day that are either in Chiclayo or close to it. Mark and I introduced ourselves to all the missionaries at the beginning. We have taken our blanket, that our children made for us, everywhere we have gone and showed the pictures along with a picture presentation from our ipad. I think all the missionaries have enjoyed learning a little bit about us. Mark and I also spoke at the end of each conference.

So after three days in a row of meetings, on Friday we left to drive to a city, and zone, that is six hours from the mission home. We got to Cajamarca after four hours on winding roads. It is in the mountains at about 8,000 feet. The terrain is much more green than in Chiclayo. The drive there was so interesting. There wer houses and people all along the way that live right along the highway. Their children and animals play right next to the highway! It scares me to death. I am so afraid we are going to hit somebody or something! We saw many donkeys, chickens, dogs, turkeys and goats. Many of the women in this area dress in traditional Peruvian dress and it was fun to see them.  We stopped and asked these ladies if we could take their picture and they looked at us like we were crazy.  They were very hesitant and could not understand why we wanted to take their picture. I am not sure why Mark thought he needed to be in the picture!

I jokingly asked one of the assistents (Los Asistentes), Elder Lattin, where the rest stops were along the way. He said that if someone really needs to go, that they just stop at a house and say, "Puedo aquilar su bano?"- "Can I rent your bathroom?" and you offer them a sol.  They either say yes and take the money or yes and say it is fine and refuse the money. I was determined to just hold it the rest of the way. These homes were very primitive and humble. The drive up the mountain reminded me of the scripture in Jeremiah 16:16: that the Lord will send hunters "and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks". This Work of Salvation is so amazing. We literally send our missionaries to every mountain, hill and hole of the rocks. It is so wonderful!

We spent two days in Cajamarca. Saturday was our Zone Conference. This was only one zone, so a much smaller group than the conferences in Chiclayo. It was much nicer; much easier to meet and talk to all the missionaries. Cajamarca is more of a touristy town, so things are a little nicer. For example, we actually had carpet in our hotel room! It felt like such a luxury! We are so blessed in the United States with so much. We never have any time fr site seeing, but we did walk around the Plaza de Armas in the middle of the city and visited a huge Catholic Church right next to our hotel. Fue muy interesante! I am sorry, but two of the statues in the church reminded me of Halloween. Everyone always asks us how we liked the area when we get back from a trip and I say, "Well, the church and the hotel were nice!" That is all we ever really get to see.

Like I said, we returned from Cajamarca on Monday. I love talking to the missionaries. They are such a great example to me. They work so hard. One of my children mentioned to me that what we are doing is so hard and later I thought, "It might be a little hard, but what the missionaries do each day is much harder than what we do, so if they can keep working so hard, then we can keep working not as hard!" I hope that makes sense. Our missionaries never rest, so why should we? The only day I have not been around the missionaries was on Wednesday of that week and it is the only day of this mission that I was depressed and homesick. The missionaries buoy me up and strengthen me. They are so brave, courageous and strong! They are such a great example and inspiration to me. I want to be like all of them someday when I grow up!

                                                           Los Asistentes, Elder Noriega (Lima, Peru) and Elder Lattin
                                                              (Laguna, California)

This is the spot where mark got pulled over for the first time by the police on our way to Cajamarca.  It turned out he was supposed to have his lights on. He blamed the Assistents for not telling him that.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Las Adventuras de la mision

Wow! Our first week! We made it through it! This is the first second that I have had any time to write. I don't known if I can even describe how difficult this first week has been. The first night we got here, we were just bewildered. We spent about four hours with the Risso's (outgoing couple). They filled us in on everything. We also found out that Peruvians do not eat dinner until 8:00 or 9:00 pm. We were famished, not having hardly eaten all day. That night we said an emotional prayer, but tried not to break into tears.

Imagine being in a new place where everything is strange and yet you have to function immediately because everyone expects you too.  Our first day we met with the Assistants an hour, then went to visit a sister with a stress fracture in her foot, visited with her and Mark gave her a blessing, attended a baptism, met with the office elders for four hours, where they basically told us everything about running the mission, attended another baptism, went grocery shopping with two elders because we had nothing to eat, then finally went to get something to eat at 8:30 pm, got home at 9:30, tried to organize a few things and unpack some. We did all this while trying to use new phones (new to us) that were not working very well (three years old), learning to use a new money system, get around a city where we know where nothing is, find things in a house where we know where nothing is, and get used to having a maid hanging around.  It was pretty frustrating and overwhelming!

But there were so many blessings; office elders who knew and know everything about running the mission, who are perfectly wonderful and willing to help us in every way.  Assistants who are very capable and totally supportive to a new president, the gospel being the same no matter where you are in the world, and the beautiful and comforting words of the scriptures. Our assistants were able to take us to the apartment of the girl with the fractured foot, then guide us to the church.  When we attended the first baptism, both of the speakers read scriptures from the Book of Mormon. What a comfort to hear words that I could understand and that were something that was familiar to me. What a comfort to attend a church meeting and know what was going on because it was conducted the exact same way that it is in the United States. Those experiences that day gave me hope that we were going to be okay.

Monday is P-day and we were hoping to go shopping and get some things that we really needed.  Then hoping to get home quickly and accomplish some other things. That was wishful thinking. Anything and everything is an ordeal here. For one thing, the traffic is horrible and crazy. There are no laws, except that you have to stop at a stoplight. In a city of 700,00 there are only three stop lights; no stop signs, no yield signs, no law to yield for pedestrians.  It is insane! There are taxis and moto-taxis or motos  (little three-wheeler vehicles that are shaded but open air), everywhere, darting in and out of traffic. Their are pedestrians everywhere who dart out into the traffic constantly. If someone is making a turn and is in your way, no problem, you just go around them. Need to make a left or right turn, no problem, they all just make turns at the same time. There is no order at all to the traffic but it does seem to have some kind of crazy rhythm that seems to work for Peruvians! The first time we drove by ourselves we really thought we were risking our lives, but as it turned out, this type of driving works well for Mark since he's been driving this way his whole life and he fit in just fine. It was amazing!

There is really no designated parking in the cities. People just park where they feel like it. A few of the larger shopping centers, like the mall, have fenced parking that you pay for.  You don't just leave your car parked at night or in a large parking lot unattended or it will be robbed, so basically you are paying people to watch your car for you. So we park and go into the largest grocery store here called Tottu. We met two sister missionaries on our way in and one of them had a health problem she needed to talk about for fifteen minutes. After two minutes in the store, we are approached by two screaming sister missionaries who are very excited to meet the new mission president! That was fine, but this happened about about a dozen times! The quick shopping trip turned into two and a half hours in one store! We had to call our maid twice to tell her we would be late. Of course we were thrilled to meet the missionaries!

Which brings me to my next point. Through all the adjustments, frustrations and headaches, there is always one thing that makes it all worth it. What is that? The missionaries! They are so amazing and so wonderful and so enthusiastic about their work that you cannot help loving them and wanting to do anything possible to help them. The majority of them work so hard! They hate to have to stay in their apartments, which is the biggest challenge for those who are sick or injured. They want to work and find and teach! I have fallen in love with all of them. It first happened at the airport when we were greeted by all six of the office elders, grinning from ear to ear, then when the office elders expounded everything about the mission, then when we were met by screaming excited sisters, then when greeted so warmly by all the missionaries at the zone conferences. It has truly been heartwarming and comforting. I have never been hugged so many times and have never shaken so many hands in my life as I did this last week. We've already had missionaries tell us that they love us and that we are so great. I've had several Latin missionaries tell me that I speak good Spanish, so of course I love that. It has just been so nice to feel so welcomed, loved and appreciated. I was touched when several sisters told me that they had even been praying for us before they even knew us! These missionaries are so great! They have so much faith!

At one zone conference we talked to a sister who had been very sick at the beginning of her mission. She ended up being in the hospital for five days because she was so dehydrated. She said that she cried the whole time because she thought she would have to go home since her body could not handle the food. She got out, went back to her area and was still having problems. She and her companion decided that if they had enough faith that she could be healed. So they knelt down and prayed and she has not had any problem since then. She was healed and has been out a year now. She is a sister trainer in the mission.  I'm sure there are dozens of stories like this in the mission.

We had a lovely dinner with six stake presidents here in the Chiclayo Mission. They took us to a restaurant with "American" food! We had Caesar salad and chicken cordon blue. Mark was lucky it was all stuff that he liked. These people were the choicest people in this area. So polite, refined and dedicated to missionary work and their callings. Of course, Mark did most of the talking the whole time. He is so amazing and so comfortable with people anywhere! I noticed after the servers brought the salad that nobody was eating because Mark was talking and not eating his food. I realized they were all waiting for Mark to eat before they would eat, so I whispered, "Mark, you need to eat!" As soon as he began eating, then they did also. It was the same with the main course. I'm learning some good things here!

A lot of people ask me how I am doing with the language. I'm doing fine. There's a lot I don't understand, but a few things I do! It's actually getting better everyday. I understand Mark better than anyone else because he speaks to me a lot in Spanish. Since he talks a lot (surprise!) that helps me follow the conversation. When I don't understand, I just say that I didn't get that and someone explains. I have had several conversations in Spanish and it has worked somehow. I have given three talks in Spanish. The hard part is preparing them because it takes me so long. But I know it will get easier and I am not worried at all.

There's a lot of English in the mission too because we have 1/3 Americans and there are many Latin elders trying to learn English. I believe we have been a blessing to Elder Noriega, one of our assistants, because he is trying hard to learn English and studies everyday. He likes it when the three of us, (me, Mark and Elder Lattin, the other assistant) speak in English so he can practice. The other day we were on a six hour drive in the car and he said, "Can you speak English slowly so I can understand?" Whenever he speaks in English, we tell him how well he is doing and I can see his confidence increasing.

There is so much more I can say, but this post is already too long. Let me just end by saying that we see the hand of The Lord guiding us in so many ways. The first few days Mark was really struggling, but The Lord has blessed him with pure revelation with several difficult situations. He has already dealt with so many things. We could already write book about it. But I think his confidence and faith is already increasing that The Lord will help him when he needs it. This is definitely going to be a growing experience, but we know that The Lord is the Gardener and He will trim us and shape us into what he needs us to be.