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.
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
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!