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.