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!