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.
a much better job in English! This is Leadership
Training Council. It is held the first Tuesday of
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
spot and starts building little shacks. Notice the
garbage pile; typical in the Chiclayo area, but not
the rest of Peru.