Tuesday, March 24, 2015

It's all about Perspective

I'm tired of summer now. Ready to move on. February and March have been pretty hot and humid. We range from 62% to 100% humidity. It gets really high when it rains. The past week, it has rained almost every day and it is a mess; no drains, dirt roads and moto-taxis. It is not a good mix. The weather in Chiclayo, for the most part is really quite pleasant. It is mild and temperate for a good part of the year. Even when it is warm, it always cools off in the evenings. It's just the humidity that can kill you and the fact that air conditioning is almost non-existent. When you get in a small room, with no ventilation, you feel like you could suffocate. Shopping is miserable. There are only about three stores in the mall with air conditioning, and they are my favorite ones. The rest of them are sweat boxes. Air conditioning in homes does not exist, but we have some air conditioning units in our apartment! We have units in five rooms of our apartment. The kitchen, laundry room, exercise room and all 5 bathrooms have no air conditioning. I really hate cooking right now. Our kitchen feels like a sauna! It is a place I just try to avoid whenever possible. Recently, a native Chiclayan woman told me that it will start cooling down very soon. I am still waiting.

My idea of a small house has really changed now. We thought our house in Wyoming was pretty small with 3 small bedrooms and 21/2 baths. It really changes your perspective when you visit a family of five that is living in a one room apartment. They were recent converts to the church. They had literally one room and shared a common bathroom with many other people. They had two twin beds pushed together in the corner where all five of them slept. They had three chairs. We, the missionaries, sat on the chairs and they all sat on the beds. They had one dresser, one set of shelves and one table with a cook stove and a small refrigerator. No sink or running water in the apartment. Just two adults with three children that were well fed, well dressed and read the scriptures very well. Peruvians, especially the women, are so resourceful. They are able to do so much with so little. I really respect them for that.

Each Sunday I look around church and marvel at how well the saints always look, because I know that many of their houses have dirt or dirty cement floors. You always know if missionaries are praying with the families they teach. Preach my Gospel asks them to have a kneeling prayer at the end of the lesson. Their suit pants are always dirty! Most of the saints live on dirt roads and walk to church. Some have no running water to bathe in. Some of the smaller, more remote areas in our mission only have water for certain hours of the day. So you have to fill up and be prepared when those times come. We have missionaries who take showers with a drain and a bucket.

                                                                We love our sisters!

Summer has been brutal for the missionaries. They come into the mission office with bright red cheeks. They have no air conditioning in their apartments, but they do have a good fan. Of course, there is the hot sun and the humidity, but there are also hundreds of mosquitos. I cannot describe what some of the sister's legs look like. They are covered in huge bright red mosquito bites and many of them get infected or have allergic reactions which are very painful. It is not a good thing when it rains here. It makes big mud puddles of water and more mosquitos. Imagine horrible dirt roads with huge craters in them. Now imagine those same roads with huge puddles of water. When it rains, the mud puddles are very difficult to get around. It is simply a mess! Normally it does not rain a lot here, but March has been an exception.  Those are not days when you really want to go out. Twice it has rained on Sunday when my husband was gone and I had to walk to church. Thank goodness all the roads from our apartment to the church are paved. But the humidity last Sunday was awful. I was dripping sweat all over the piano and my hair was soaking wet!

                                             "Sisters, sisters, never such devoted sisters!"

I have had some amazing experiences teaching with sisters. It has been such a great experience to be in lessons where investigators had sincere questions like, "Why do we need a prophet today?" or "Why do we need the Book of Mormon?" and then see how our study, preparation and the Spirit guided us in what to say and how to answer their questions. I have realized that I do have the authority to teach because I have been set apart as a Missionary. It was amazing to me, the answers that came to my mind. It was especially amazing that I found the words necessayr to explain my thoughts in Spanish. The gift of tongues is so real. The most exciting thing that I learned is how necessary and powerful the scriptures really are. They answered every question that the investigators were struggling with. The most vital to know are the scripture mastery scriptures that the church has emphasized in seminary. They are the key to many concerns.

One investigator named Jose, wondered out loud what was different about the Mormon Church from all the other churches and why we needed the Book of Mormon. I told him I believed that we need the Book of Mormon because it is another witness of the Bible. It confirms that the BIble is true. It is such a simple concept and something that I have always known, but something I had studied in Preach my Gospel that day and felt impressed to share with him. Preach my Gospel says, "Far from competing with the Bible, the Book of Mormon supports it, exhorts us to read it, and testifies of the truthfulness of its message." Such a profound truth. That simple idea was "delicious" to him and saw his faith and his desire to know more increase from that moment on. Peruvians are very religious people and they love the Bible.  I also told him that there are many false doctrines in the world and the Book of Mormon teaches us the truth. I had him read 2 Nephi 28:7-9. He agreed that those words were true and said that he has friends who think it is okay to drink and to steal, but he said, "Those things are not right." The power of the sciprtures convinced him of the truth. At the end of the lesson, he gave a beautiful, sincere prayer and at the end of the prayer he had tears running down his cheeks. We knew the Spirit had touched his heart through prayer and the Word of God.

The rest of the story; I happened to be at that building for church, where those sister missionaries meet and serve, the following Sunday. I was looking for them to get a report about another lesson they had taught. I was happened to be looking at the door at the moment when Jose walked in with his entire family; his "wife" and two teenaged daughters, 14 and 15 years old. I had the priviledge of greeting them and welcoming them to church. Jose was wearing a full suit, a shirt and tie, very unusual for an investigator. He said, "How do I look? Just like a Mormon, right!" He was very proud of how he looked. It was so cute! The talks that day were perfect and testified of several things we had talked about in the lesson. In Gospel Essentials class, they were all totally engaged and interested in the lesson on the Plan of Salvation. I kept thinking, I hope they are hooked! It was wonderful to feel the joy of knowing you may have been an instrument in some way in helping someone find the truth, D&C 18:15,16. I don't get to experience that side of missionary work very much, (my own fault) but hopefully I will more in the future, because it is very fun and rewarding!

Now the funny part of the story. The "wife", Lisset, cares for her 96 year old great aunt in their home. Sometimes homes here are arranged in very interesting ways. The aunt's bed was right there in the corner of the "living room." She was sound asleep and many times during the Joseph Smith story she would snore right out loud. Then she started talking in her sleep and they would laugh at her. It added some fun sound effects to the story! It was pretty funny! The great aunt had been Lisset's excuse for not coming to church in the past. When they came to church the first time, I asked her who was with her aunt and she said, "Oh I got someone else to watch her."

We have talked many times in the mission, that when people become truly converted, they overcome all the obstacles to memebership in the church. It is something that Elder David L.Evans talked about at our Mission President's seminar. He said that in missionary work, we always talk about problems in the culture that impede the work. He also said that every culture has problems. They are just different. However, when people become truly converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ, then all the cultural problems go away because they are willing to make changes in their lives. It is so true! The sad part of the story of Jose and Lisset and their family is that they are not legally married. They can never progress and be baptized until they get married. I think they are becoming converted, so hopefully they will repent and change their lives.

Sunday, the whole family came to church again. I cannot wait to see their progress and how they change their lives. Investigators in our Area are required to attend church for at least three Sundays all three hours in order to be illegible for baptism. Another investigator that I taught, Francisco, came to church yesterday also. His Dad was the one who felt that maybe we don't need prophets today. The sisters gave him a copy of the Proclamation on the Family. He started to read it and said, "This is beautiful and amazing. There are so many families today with so many problems." I told him that was exactly the reason why we need prophets and that the whole document was written by prophets. He was very surprised and impressed. We read Hebrews 13:8, that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and always. I told him that if Jehovah needed a prophet in ancient times, then he still needs one today. He agreed that this is true! Once again, the power of the scriptures convinced him of the truth!

                                                             Common sites in Peru

My husband had an exciting trip this weekend. It is the first trip he went on without me. We decided I should stay in Chiclayo for several reasons. He traveled with the Assistents and his counselors to a very small remote area in our mission called Celendin. He needed to call a new branch president. That is a story all in itself, but the trip home was the most exciting part. It had rained a lot while they were there and the roads were very treacherous on the way back home, lots of mud and rock slides. Elder Lalli had just mentioned that if a rock hit them, he was the one who would die! Then the windshield was hit by a boulder about the size of a softball. Little shards of glass covered the dashboard. Another one hit the side of the car. You can see the results in the pictures. We are just glad that Elder Lalli lived to tell about it. He entitled these pictures "Elder Lalli Rocks!" I think he got that right!

These past, almost nine months, have been very difficult for me and I have struggled with many things. I think I am learning to enjoy the things that are good about being here. One of those "good parts" is that I have the opportunity to work with my husband and spend more time with him each day. I have always wanted Mark to be able to come home for lunch. But with his teaching schedule and distance, it has never been possible. Now, his office is 1/2 mile away and we always eat lunch together and usually every meal together everyday! It is fun to talk about all that has happened, because there is always a lot! Being on this mission has helped me to love and appreciate my husband more. He is an amazing man with such a pure and honest heart. His only desire is to do what is right; what the Lord wants him to do. I have realized more what a blessing he is in my life and how many times he has been the answer to so many of my prayers. He really is an angel to me. I am so grateful that the Lord loved me enough to give me him. I am grateful for the experiences I am having and am excited to see the blessings that continue to come.

                                            Mark had a new friend in the room with him!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Wedding Bells and Blues

Saturday night, we enjoyed the Open House of Brian and Megan via Facetime. It was such a great occassion to have the opportunity to visit with family and friends. Some of those we got to talk to: My Aunt Diane, cousin John and his wife Tasha from Sandy; Jan, Flo and Amy Bright from Kennewick, Washington; Matt and Andy Dame, who we knew in Florida Florida, Connie Pelfrey (Mark's college friend), The Cannons (Brian's mision president and wife), Kay and Susan Page of Riverton (missionary companion), all of Mike and Pam's family, who are always so supportive and all of Mark's brothers and sisters. It was so good to talk to all of them and we really appreciated Mike and Pam opening their home for the Open House and all their help with Brian while we have been away.

Our youngest son Brian was married in the Newport Beach Temple on February 14, 2015. It was such a memorable occasion. Many have asked about my trip back to the United States and what it was like. Some of the questions have been: Was it weird being in the United States? Did you feel guilty? What was the food you most wanted to eat? What was the first American food that you ate? Well the answer to those questions is: No, it felt wonderful, normal and natural! No, I felt wonderful, normal, natural and exactly where I should be at the time! (With my family) Cheescake. A burrito at Tacotime. Eric and I arrived at the airport about the same time and were picked up by Lisa and Hayden. We mentioned that we were pretty hungry. Lisa asked where we would like to eat. I saw a Tacotime and said to go there. Lisa said, "No, you don't want your first meal in the United States to be there:" I said, "Are you kidding?! This is amazing to be able to drive up to a Tacotime, order a burrito, receive it in two minutes and it eat in the car! This is not even possible in Peru!" That was the best Burrito Supreme I have had in years!

We were able to spend five nights in a beach house with our almost our entire family. Mark was not able to come, but it did include all thirteen of our grandchildren and it was wonderful! Most importantly, we had some time to visit with our family. My Dad and Linda were able to come from Utah, also my brother Tim, my brother Bobby and family and my sister Charlene and family. We also were blessed with the company of Mike and Pam, who just fit in perfectly with our whole wild crew. We relaxed and played on the beach, made donut runs to Newport Donuts, went to the temple with Megan, had dinner at Balboa Pier with both the Williams and the Greenwoods, rode the ferris Wheel and danced with hula hopos (CJ is the hula hoop champ).

We attended all the wedding festivities including the temple ceremony, lunch at a Mexican Restaurant with all my family and dinner and reception at a ranch just outside of Bakersfield, California. It was a perfect week and a perfect day for Megan and Brian. The dinner and reception were beautiful and perfect with words spoken, feelings shared, tears shed and dances danced. What a great night! Mark was able to join some of the festivities with the help of Chris and Facetime. He made sure that his voice was still heard even though he was not there! We appreciate all the hard work and planning of Megan and her Mom. My only complaint was that I did not get a piece of cake. And everyone kept telling me how good it was!

                                      My Dad and my baby brother Tim, 16 years younger

I also had the priviledge of  flying to Indiana with Lisa, Hayden and their family and spend four very fun days in Indianapolis. Lisa and Hayden have a beautiful home and live in a very nice area. They have a huge backyard and a beautiful neighborhood. It did not feel like I was in a big city. Lisa and I went to the Children's Museum, which was incredible, with Beckham, Ellery and Coast. We even got to ride the carousel! Lisa and Hayden treated me to Cheesecake Factory (yes, I had cheesecake) and Red Lobster, two of my favorite places. They also had record cold days while I was there, -25, so I got a very diverse taste of two completely different climates. I also had a dental checkup and physical exam on the insistence of my husband. He really likes to make sure I am well taken care of.

The only part of my trip that was not perfect was not having my Eternal Sweetheart by my side. It was not Valentine's Day for me without him there. We all missed him very much. Eric had the priviledge of being a witness to the sealing in my husband's place, but it was hard to look over and know that Mark was not there. I only had one breakdown. Just too bad it had to be in the temple endowment session in front of a lot of people, but after that I was okay. I think I even missed Mark more at the reception when many feelings of love were expressed in our family. It was strange to look around on the dance floor and realize that I had no one to dance with. I have to thank Eric for filling in with a lot of things and making sure I was taken care of all day. My husband has set such a good example for my sons of what a husband should be and how he should treat his wife. I have no doubt that Eric and Brian will be superb husbands if they follow in the footsteps of their father.

Sunday was a hard day for me. Little "Cutter Mark Brown", our thirteenth grandchild, was blessed on Sunday, March 1. We have never missed any other Brown blessing in Cheyenne, Wyoming. So I have to admit that I mourned a little bit that day. But there have been so many blessings to outweigh the sacrifice. I have never felt such relief and gratitude for a safe delivery as I did the day that Cutter was born. When Julie started her labor, the fluid was brown, which is not a good sign. I was worried all through the night. The next morning, when Cutter was born perfectly normal, without any problems, I knew that the Lord had granted us a special blessing. How thankful I am that all of my son-in-laws are worthy priesthood holders who bless the lives of their families and are worthy to give them blessings. I am grateful for children who are teaching my grandchildren the gospel by holding family home evening and scripture study. We are also so blessed to have the technology that we can see and speak with our family anytime that we want or need to. It has really made this separation so much easier.

It was a blessing for me to attend a Sacrament Meeting on Sunday, partake of the sacrament the exact same way that we do in the United States and feel the same strong spirit. I was uplifted and comforted by the testimonies that were born and the sweet spirit that was present in the meeting.  I am grateful for the words of the scriptures and of the hymns that speak peace to my heart on occasions when it is troubled.

More holiness give me, More strivings within,
More patience in suffering, More sorrow for sin,
More faith in my Savior, More sense of his care,
More joy in his service, More purpose in prayer.

I do know that my Savior lives and that he suffered and died for me. I know that it is only through His help and His strength that I can overcome my challenges and my weaknesses. It is because of my knowlege of Him and what he has done and suffered for me, that I want to serve. I hope that I can be a more humble and willing servant.