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.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Cambios Pegueña y Grande

We made it through our first transfer last week. It was pretty intense. The transfer day was actually Tuesday, August 12, but it started on Sunday for both of us. Mark was at the office that day for about five hours doing Exit Interviews. I was at home getting started on cooking the food because I had two huge meals to prepare.

Monday, the missionaries departing are given about eight hours of training on how to prepare for and get a job and basically be successful in the real world, so Mark was involved with that all day. I was at home cooking with Edna. She is such a great help. She cuts up fruit and vegetables so fast, like it is just nothing. I spent most of the day making 32 cinnamon rolls for the breakfast Tuesday morning, while Edna cut up fruit for a fruit salad. Then we prepared a roast, carrots, mashed potatoes, gravy and salad for a special dinner for the eight missionaries leaving that night.  They arrived at our house at about 5:30 pm. We ate dinner and had dessert; brownies, ice cream and hot fudge sauce. Lastly, we had a short testimony meeting so they could all express their final thoughts. It was wonderful. Next we went to the airport to say goodbye.

One special missionary from Honduras, really made his way into my heart in a short time. I only talked to him about three times, but in my interview with him, he said how much he loved us and that he wished he could be in the mission longer to get to know us better. I told him I felt the same. I cannot express how much we do not want the really good missionaries to leave. Inside I felt like I wanted to just grab on to them and yell, "No, don,t go!!!!!" But I knew it was time. They had given their service and their time. I told this particular missionary that I would miss him and thanked him for his service. His reply, "Thank you for loving me." My heart melted and I said, "That was easy Elder." I still miss him.

These Latino missionaries are so cute and so sweet and loving. We have many that are converts to the church and I love to hear the story of their conversions. Several are the only members in their family. One hermana told me of her abusive family and the troubles in her life, until the missionaries knocked on her door. Their message gave her hope and courage and changed her life. Now she is serving in our mission as a Sister Training Leader. One sister from Lima with a cute, bubbly personality just brightened up my day when I interviewed her. I mentioned my love for the missionaries and she said, "But you love the sisters the best!" I said, "Of course! But don,t tell the elders, it will just be our secret!" She replied, "Yes, it,s our secret!!"

Elder Asqui: Only member in his family and only a member one year before his mission. He is awesome! He left the field as a Zone Leader.

On Tuesday morning, we were at the airport again at 7:30 am to greet 20 new missionaries, 18 from the United States and two from South America, 15 elders and 5 hermanas. What a great group! They got up at 2:00 am to get on their early flight and they all looked pretty shellshocked when they first got off the plane. I just remember how I felt the first night I came here. It seemed like such a strange world. We put them all on a bus and whisked them to Pimentel Beach. Mark gave them a little presentation and had them each burn a paper boat to represent the boats that the Spanish burned when they came to the New World. We had a small explosion in one of the garbage cans with water when an elder accidentally dropped his lighter in it. I thought we were going to have our first casuality in the mission. It literally took all the hair off his arm as he had his arm in the garbage can when it exploded. It reminded me of a mishap the mission president had when he was younger. He lit some gasoline in a cap and it blew up in his face. He did not have any eyebrows or lashes for a while!

Next we went to the mission home for breakfast. Thirty-two people, including us, the office elders the twenty greenies and two helpers, feasted on cinnamon rolls, fruit salad, cereal and yogurt. (The yogurt in Peru is drinkable. I,m still not used to that!) Then we gave some medical advice and words of welcome. Next they walked to the mission office. We met all of the transfer missionaries in the chapel. Mark and I spoke, the new missionaries introduced themselves and then transfers were announced. Last of all, the greenies found out who their new companions were and where in the mission they were going. It was a pretty exciting morning!

For the rest of the afternoon, Mark and I interviewed all of the new missionaries. What an interesting experience. These are our first group of missionaries that will be in the mission the whole time with us! They are completely ours! I asked each one of them how they decided to go on a mission and it was so wonderful to hear that they had come on their missions for the right reasons; because they have testimonies, they want to bring the gospel and the atonement to others and because the gospel has been such a blessing in their lives. One poor missionary was really bewildered. He had already been to his apartment and realized this was not luxury living. Some of them had red eyes and were about to fall asleep, but they were all choice young adults and had a great desire to serve. The eighteen year olds seem sooooooo young! We did not get home until 8:00 pm that night. It was a long day.

                                           Sister Trainer Leaders: The Best of the Best!

This past weekend we had our first Stake Conference and visit with a general authority. It was a choice experience. Elder Grow of the seventy came to reorganize the Chiclayo Central Stake. Mark picked him up at the airport Friday evening. He had dinner with us and then talked to us and answered our questions for 2 or 3 hours. He is such a kind and gracious person. We really enjoyed having him in our home. Mark spoke at all three sessions; Priesthood Leadership, Adult evening and the Sunday morning session. Saturday evening, Elder Grow had us stand up to introduce us. Then he said, "We will let Sister Williams rest tonight but tomorrow she will give a thirty minute talk!" I am so glad he was only joking.

The Sunday morning session was incredible. The outpouring of the Spirit was overwhelming. I felt such joy in feeling the love that these saints have for the gospel and for the Lord. They had a special youth choir and they all looked so nice. The young women had on white blouses and black skirts and the young men wore suits and ties. They were all so clean and beautiful. I have not ever talked much about the music in Peru but it is a little different than what we are used to in the United States. There are no organs, only pianos, and they rarely get played. Most Peruvian services and baptisms are sung a capella. Without accompaniment. They have done this so much, that they sing a lot of the hymns in their own special way. Sometimes it takes me a minute to figure out what they are singing. They are not the best singers. There is no harmony, but they love to sing and they sing the hymns with all their hearts.

This choir did not have the best sound I have ever heard, but as I looked into their faces, I knew that they meant every word they were singing and it greatly touched my heart. The choir diector was so cute. You would have thought he was directing the Tabernacle Choir. He was very expressive in his conducting and was enjoying every moment of the production. He had created a special arrangement of "Come, Come ye Saints and the youth were happy to follow his every "command", just like the Sons of Helaman. Ha ha! Mark and I were asked to bear our testimonies. After the meeting, the saints rushed the stage. We could not get off the stage for quite some time. The good part was that I got to hug almost every young woman and shake the hands of the young men in the choir and thank them for their service that day.

Peruvians are very affectionate people and they believe in hugs and kisses. I have received so many since I have been here. We have really felt the love and the welcome of these people. I love to see the elders in our mission hug each other when they see one other. In the United States that might seem strange, but they are not afraid to show their love and affection for each other. Of course, I am not allowed to hug the elders, but I get lots of hugs from the hermanas and sometimes I forget and almost hug one of the elders! I can,t wait until I,m not a missionary any more. When I see these elders again, I hope to give them a big hug!

                                          Sister Trainer Leaders meeting in Mark,s Office. There
                                           are sisters everywhere, thank goodness!

                                          Missionaries who completed their first twelve weeks of
                                           Training (12 sisters and 1 elder) with their companions

Thursday, August 14, 2014

El Presidente, Mi Esposo

There have been some challenges with living in Peru. Most public toilets do not have toilet paper, so you always have to be prepared. I always carry my package of Kleenex in my purse and we have toilet paper in our car. Many public toilets do not have a seat on them, so you get to do a squatting action that is very glamorous! The computer paper here is a different size! It is longer than our paper. I thought paper was a universal size, but apparently it is not. We have done a lot of cutting since we have been here. We always have to have a cup of water in order to brush our teeth. I always forget and have to make a trip back to the kitchen. That is the only room where we have filtered water.

Last Monday, I walked with two Hermanas who were trying to find a machine where they could get some cash. We walked all over and even took a taxi and after visiting four machines, we could not find one that was working. Saturday I went to get my hair cut and to get a few groceries. We have a copy of our passport that has been notarized that we use for ID. It is considered a perfectly legal document and most of the time we have had no problem. But every now and then we get an ignoramus who thinks they are smarter than we are, who refuses to accept the ID. So Saturday was my lucky day and the lady would not accept my ID. I decided to just go outside and get some cash. There were three machines. Two were not working and one had a line of ten people. Mark finally sent two missionaries to come and pay for the groceries for me.

One Friday night, Mark and I decided to go and get some groceries that we needed for a dinner. We found out that Friday night is not a good time to go shopping, even at 10:00 o,clock. The lines were all 10-12 people long. We waited about 40 minutes to check out and then when we got there, they would not accept our ID. Mark put up a great fight, but they still would not take it, even though we had used it there a dozen times before. Everything always ends up being so difficult! I hope I do not sound overly negative, but this is the truth of our life.

The missionaries have expressions here, when strange things happen or things do not work, like; "Only in Peru!" or "Because we are in Peru!" I heard a new exppression the other day. Some of the missionaries talk about their "Peruvian moments". So here are a few of our Peruvian Moments. Women pulling out there full breast to nurse their fussy baby in the checkout line or in church. That still really shocks me. Men urinating on the side of the road in full view of traffic. Last week in Cajamarca, right in the middle of the city, a girl pulled down her pants, squatted right on the sidewalk, urinated, then got back up and pulled her pants up. As one missionary put it, a lot of Peruvians do not have privacy issues like we do.

Now to happier thoughts: my wonderful husband! I think he is amazing and has handled so many difficult situations in such a wise and confident manner. I have heard him answer questions I did not know how to answer and handle situations I did not know how to handle. He seems to always know the right thing to say. After one such situation on the phone, I commented on how well he had handled some difficult questions from a missionary. He commented that he hoped he was not only wise, but also directed by the Spirit. I know that he is.
                                            Presidente Williams, Mi Esposa and the love of my
                                            life. There is no where else on earth I would rather be
                                            than with him!

There was one situation when he maybe did not say the right thing. One day we had a maintenance man here removing a sink that we did not want in our bathroom. Our maid, Edna, took me in the bathroom and asked me if we wanted the bidet (look it up) removed next to our toilet. I was not sure and called Mark to come and look at it. He came and Edna asked him if he wanted it taken out.  Mark said that no, it was fine. Then he said, "I mean, I don,t use it." Then turning to Edna, "Do you use it?" This was all in Spanish, so it took me a second to realize what he had just said. Wow! That could have been an awkward moment, but I laughed out loud and said, "I can,t believe you just said that!" Mark swears that was not what he meant! He wondered if she used the bidet for cleaning. I kept laughing and noticed that Edna and the maintenance man were laughing too!

The mall (Real Plaza) is the nicest place in Chiclayo. And the most like the United States. There is toilet paper in the bathroom (very rare in Peru), lots of American stores, McDonald,s, KFC and Chili,s! A week ago Saturday, we decided to actually go on a date and spend the evening together. We started by having dinner at Chili,s. It was very early for Peruvian dinner times, so the restaurant was not overly busy and it was even a little bit quiet. It was so nice to just sit there and talk to each other. We ordered tortilla chips with guacamole, burger bites and fries, great American food! It tasted so good! After our food came, I realized the music playing in the background was even American music. I could sit there, and as long as I did not look out the window, I could imagine that I was in the United States. It felt so good to be back home.

In front of the Lima, Peru Temple

About three weeks ago, after our trip to Jaen, we had to go to Lima for one night to do some paper work for our Visas. So the day after the day we had just returned home, we flew on a late flight to Lima. The church is amazing. They always have have every detail of al these things that need to be done all figured out. When we got to Lima, a man was waiting to pick us up and drive us to our hotel, not a memeber of the church, but somebody hired by the church to do this. Little did we know that our hotel was an hour drive from the airport. When we finally got there, it was 1:00. Our room was gorgeous. (It was all they had available) It was extravagant: a huge jacuzzi tub in the bathroom, a huge shower, his and her toilets, a patio with a nice couch, a suite with a couch, etc. It was the nicest room we have ever stayed in our whole life and we got to enjoy it for five hours. We had to be up at 6:00 am and ready to leave by 6:30 am. So much for a romantic night in Lima!

                                           The back of the Lima, Peru Temple

Here is what my husband does: He reads and responds to 170-230 emails from the missionaries each week. And most of them are written in Spanish. That is just what he does in his spare time; between interviewing missionaries, attending meetings, answering endless phone calls, taking care of crises, writing letters to Salt Lake, calling and meeting with Stake Presidents, meeting with and training his leaders, making changes and transfers every six weeks, going to the airport and making lots of road trips.

Despite all of this, he somehow manages to let me know, in small ways, that my wants and needs are very important to him. Then, even though we have had very little quality time together, I feel such gratitude for him and to be married to such a wonderful person who always lets me know that he cares about me. Last weekend, we traveled to Cajamarca for our second time. It was a quick trip to interview 26 missionaries that we had not met with yet. We left Friday morning about 8:00 am and got there by 1:15 pm in order to begin interviewing at 2:00 pm. The plan was to get there in time to have lunch before we started, but that never happened. So by the time we finished interviewing at 7:00 and Mark met with a Stake President until 8:00, we were pretty tired and hungry.

We decided to go to the mall to find something to eat. The options were not that great, so we settled for Pizza Hut. We waited about 25 minutes to get our food (fast food is not fast here) and then finally sat down to eat. It turned out that what I had ordered was not appetizing to me at all; it did not look at all like the picture, so I took a few bites and pushed it aside. Mark was not happy about this, because he wanted to make sure my need for food was taken care of.  I mentioned that the chicken looked good, so my husband got up and went and stood in another line to get me some chicken, while his food sat on the table getting cold.

When we finished eating, we went to a department store. I had forgotten to bring a jacket and I was very cold. I keep forgetting it is winter here and Cajamarca is in the mountains and much colder than Chiclayo. So Mark went with me to the store, helped me find and pick out a sweater and then stood in another long line to purchase it for me. As I stood there watching him, I realized how lucky I am and knew that he would not want to be doing anything else right then, until he had taken care of me. And yet, I knew he was exhausted. He had been up late the night before, gotten up early, driven five hours on windy roads and interviewed missionaries for five hours. His next mission was to take care of me. No wonder I keep following him all over this earth!

Yesterday, Sunday, he went to extend a calling to a man who has served as a bishop for nine years. The Stake President is getting ready to release him and is afraid he will be very sad without a calling, so he suggested him as the new secretary that Mark needs in his presidency. The man did not know yet he was being released as a bishop, but when Mark asked him to serve as his secretary, he immediately said yes, without any hesitation. Mark was floored. He went on and said, the calling will require a lot of time and traveling. "Okay", he said. Then Mark found out that before being a bishop for nine years, he had served in a Stake Presidency for four years and as a bishop six years before that. Mark was so touched and amazed by this man,s willingness to serve. We were both very humbled and want to be as willing as this man is to serve in the Lord,s kingdom.