Tuesday, April 28, 2015

If ye are Prepared, ye shall not Fear.

Last week we had "changes". We sent home 5 missionaries on Monday and welcomed 7 new missionaries on Tuesday morning at 8:00 am. This was a smaller group and it is nice because it can be a little more personal. Then at 11:00 am, other transfers and change of companions was revealed to about 100 missionaries. It is pretty crazy. The first couple of times that Mark and I did this, it was pretty hard and we got a little stressed out. But eventually, we figured out what we were doing and it got a lot better. We have learned now to relax and enjoy the process.

                                                A fine group going home: Zone Leaders and
                                                                Sister Training Leaders

When the new missionaries arrive on Tuesday morning, we have a fun tradition. The first thing we do is take them to the beach! It is the only time on their mission they can go there. The beach is off limits to missionaries. The beach is about 15 minutes from Chiclayo and is in a small town called Pimentel. We take the missionaries down on the beach and have them make a boat out o fa pice of thin paper. Then my husband tells them a story about Fernandez Cortez. In the 1500's he came from Spain to conquer Mexico. Many before him had tried and failed. But this time was different. After getting settled on the land, Cortez commanded his men to burn all the boats. For these men, the decision was either to conquer or die because they were never returning to Spain.

                                               An excited new group at Pimentel Beach

After telling this intriguing story, my husband commands all the missionaries to burn their boats! They are each given a lighter and literally burn their boats. My husband explains that there is no going back and we are all Peruvian now. It is a powerful moment for some. But if nothing else it is really fun! Who knew that a mission could be that fun!

My husband always makes the Assistants get a trash barrel full of water to throw the burning boats in. After getting soaking wet a couple of times, they got smart and started asking people on the beach to fill it up for them. It has been a good thing, as some have been curious about what we are doing and we have been able to make a few contacts!

                                          Those are two huge headless fish hanging from the
                                           trunk of the car. There were two on top also. No
                                           wrap or cover. This was a definite Peruvian
                                                                  moment for us!

The past week has been pretty memorable for us. On Saturday, April 18, 2015, Mark had the priviledge of baptizing a man that he had the opportunity to interview. It was a great occasion. His wife has been a member for a year and three months. She bore a beautiful testimony at the baptism. They also have a six year old son. These to me, are always the best baptisms, that unite a family in the gospel. It is such a beautiful thing for the whole family to be members and to start preparing to go to the temple. This is what missionary work is all about.

                                              Baptism of Antonino Maldonado Mendeza

On the following Saturday, April 25, 2015, we had the priviledge to witness the baptism of Jose, Lisbeth, Joseline and Daniella. What a wonderful occasion. The Spirit was so strong and there were so many members there to support them. I had the opportunity to play the piano and the hermanas who taught them, sang a duet of "When I am Baptized" and "He Sent His Son". There have been a few times in my fifty three years when I have felt the Spirit so strongly helping me to play each note on the piano perfectly, but this was one of those times. Through music, a beautiful spirit was brought to the baptism. After the baptism all four, individually, bore their testimonies and it was unforgettable, the spirit we all felt. These are true converts to the gospel. They bore their testimonies of the Book of Mormon, of Joseph Smith, of the restoration of the gospel and of Jesus Christ. It was absolutely a perfect day.

                                             The Baptism: Hermana Thruston, Daniella,
                                            Lisbeth, Jose, Joseline and Hermana Hebdon

The morning of the baptism, Jose and Lisbeth were married, after 17 years of living together! It was pretty exciting. After the baptism we were invited to a celebration in honor of them and their marriage. It was our first official "fiesta" that we have attended in Peru and it was pretty fun. Their were decorarions, music and tons of food, including a wedding cake! They kept bringing plates of food around and we were expected to take some. A few times I tried to decline, but Jose got a little upset with me! We had crackers with a cream cheese mixture, potato balls with mustard, wontons with ham in them, little pastry shells with chicken salad and little chocolates with marshmellow in them. Thank goodness, it was nothing too unusual for us. Those were the h'doeuvres. Next we had the main course, greasy fried chicken (a staple in the Peruvian diet), a really good tamale, very moist, but only one bite of chicken in it and a beet and potato salad, which was actually really good. We also had maracuya juice, which is passion fruit and it was very good. I really liked it. I know Eric and Brian really liked that when they were here!

The Newlywed Couple 

Before we left, Jose thanked us profusely for all we had done for them, which really wasn't that much, but I was impressed with his humility and gratitude. He walked us to our car, to make sure we were safe and said that he hoped all of God's choicest blessings would be upon us. That is a touching thing that Peruvians say to family and friends that they love a lot. We had kind of tried to get out of going, but knew that we needed to fellowship these good people. I was really glad that we went. It was a wonderful experience to be with the saints of that ward and feel of their love and their spirit.

Last week was actually a very eventful week for us. We had a Stake Conference the weekend of April 18-19, Changes on Monday and Tuesday, a visit from President Uceda of the Area Presidency, and a Young Women "Standards Night" that we were asked to speak at. I spoke or bore my testimony about seven times this past week. President Uceda met with us for three hours and listened to every thing going on in our mission, listened to our concerns and gave us some very good counsel. It was so nice to talk to him. He is so positive and so kind and he speaks excellent English. He has been a member of the church from the very beginning of the church in Peru and he is very aware of the challenges that are here. He has an incredible amount of experience, wisdom and insight. We will be going on a mission tour with him in August or September.

                                                      A memorable Stake Conference


The Standard's Night was an interesting experience because we were prepared to talk about modesty and dating and there was only one Young Woman who came. They invited all the women in the ward, so we had a group of about 25 more "mature" women. They were very gracious and polite listening to information about dating and eternal marriage. The idea was to try to get a lot of less active Young Women to to come, but they didn't! We did have the sister missionaries there who invited us, so there were three Young Women who hopefully benefitted from it.

                                            The Young Women and sister missionaries of
                                                the Los Andes Ward in La Victoria Stake

This coming Thursday we will have the opportunity to travel to Lima for a conference for three days. Mostly, we are excited to attend the temple. It has been six months for Mark since he has been able to attend and only 2 1/2 for me, but we are used to going more than that and we miss it. We will be having a new temple dedicated in Trujillo on June 21, same day as the Payson Temple, but it is not in our mission so I don't know if we will be able to attend it. Trujillo is about two and a half hours from Chiclayo.

We have now experienced three earthquakes since we have been in Peru, one in Lima and two while we were in our apartment in Chiclayo. The last one was just Sunday. We are always on the seventh floor of the building and it is a little disconcerting. We can't just run out in the street and I am not jumping from the window as Brian suggested. The buildings here are built the same as those in Nepal, mostly bricks and no steel or support. Pretty much everything would just crumble. We decided after the one on Sunday that we should put together an emergency kit, in case we have to leave fast. It is amazing how much better I feel now that we are more prepared. It is a good feeling to know that we are spiritually prepared, also, for whatever may come. I know the gospel is true and that because of the atonement of Jesus Christ we will live again. I know that I will be with my husband and my family for eternity in the presence of our Heavenly Father and His Son. I have had a strong testimony and faith in our Father's plan for my whole life. The Holy Ghost has born witness to me on too many occassions, that these things are true, to ever be able to doubt.

Friday, April 17, 2015

A Whole New World

I have always wanted to write about the Mercado Modelo (Central Market). Shopping in Peru can be quite a different experience than in the United States. The market is in the center of Chiclayo. From what I understand, every city in Peru has a similar market. There are many goods and services that can only be found in the market. For instance, I decided to sew a skirt and the only place to buy material or thread was at the market. It was the only place we could get ribbon for Christmas. The market is rows and rows of booths with goods and services. In Peru, they have a different mentality about shopping. Services and goods are grouped together. If you want to buy a cell phone, you can go to a sort of cell phone mall with 20 cell phone stores all together. I guess that way you don't have to walk or drive allover the place to compare products or prices. The market is the same. If you want tennis shoes, there are about twenty booths with tennis shoes all lined up in a row. Services are arranged the same. When I went to buy fabric, I passed at least 20 taylors, sewing machines all set up and plugged in, with people busily cutting material and sewing. It's really amazing because they are virtually outside. I think it is convenient to pick out material and then hire someone right there to sew the article of clothing that you want. There are also dozens of shoe making and repair shops.

                                                    They are driving like this! No wasted
                                                                 space ever in Peru!

Other products you can buy at the market: wood products, souvenirs, any type of clothing (shirts, skirts, socks, underwear, bras, all kinds of shoes, flip flops, etc.), toys, party decorations, wrapping paper, jewelry, watches, fresh flowers, dried flowers, craft making products, all kinds of foods; birthday cakes, grains, fruits, vegetables and fresh meat. The meat is not packaged or refrigerated. It is all just sitting out on counters, like many places in Europe. The meat market and smells a bit.  You can find anything there. Chicken feet, chicken guts, cow intestines and utters, hearts, fish, shrimp, octopus, lobster, squid, pork, pork head, beef, tongue, chicken and more. I  try to avoid it, but it seems to be right in the center of everything. You can also get smoothies, pastries, Peruvian dishes, empanadas and drinks. The market is very interesting, very hot, and stuffy, but it is something you need to experience when you are in Peru. It is like a maze and very hard to find your way around. There are no signs or directions.

                                             It's a pig's head and I am not sure what else!

When Eric and Brian came for Christmas, we went to do some shopping at the market. A popular item for kids here in Peru is a crude type of wooden top. After watching two boys ages 4 and 6 play with their tops and throw them down expertly on the pavement, Eric and Brian decided that they wanted to buy one. So we found our way to the wooden products and they both bought a top. The fun part was when they tried to use them and found out it was not as easy as it looked. All of the Peruvians loved watching the Gringos trying to get the tops to work. The top has a string wrapped around it that has to be placed correctly and unwound properly in the way it is thrown down in order to get the top to work. Several men came by and offered tips and advice about how to work the tops. It was pretty funny. I think my boys are still trying to figure out how to work them!

Last week I had an interesting experience with an hermana in the mission. She called me because she had a cold sore on her lip and wondered what she could do to help it get better. I suggested a cream that she could buy at a Pharmacy. So she went to buy the cream and the person attending her told her that she needed two other medications. She bought the medicines and then called me to make sure they were okay. I had never heard of them before, so I told her I would do some research to see what they were. I looked around and felt a little uncomfortable with them. I called Dr. Bart, our area medical advisor and asked him what he thought about the medications. He said they were not appropriate for a cold sore. So they sold her two medications that would not help her in any way. Pharmacies are a little different here. So are the laws regulating them. I advised her that she probably should not take them!

I had the opportunity to help teach Jose and Liseth and their two daughters, Daniela and Joseline. The lesson was on the creation and the Word of Wisdom. What a great thing to teach! The whole family has a baptismal date now for April 25th. The plan is that Jose and Liseth will be married on April 25th. In Peru, in order to help more couples get married, they have group weddings that are much less expensive and less paper work. They are called "Matrimonio Masivos", (massive marriages.) So they will be married in one of these ceremonies and then be baptized the same day. So far, they are doing very well, attending church every week and all the many activities of the church. Last Sunday, I saw the girls and it was the first time I had seen them in dresses. They looked so nice. It has been so amazing to watch them progress. There has especially been a great change in Liseth. In the first lesson, she did not participate at all and acted as if she was not very interested. But that has totally changed. She is very engaged and participates in all the discussions now.

The lesson on the Word of Wisdom went very well. That day as I was studying and preparing, I felt strongly impressed to share the experience of my brother Bobby with throat cancer. He was diagnosed with it when he was only 39 years old, which is highly unusual. Basically, I shared that he was healed and his life spared from a horrible cancer and brutal treatment that included painful radiation, chemotherapy and a tube in his stomach for nutrition. He was unable to eat for aobut two months. Every time I read the last verse of the Word of Wisdom, D&C 89:21, I think of him. It says: "And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them." Bobby has lived the Word of Wisdom all his life and was totally worthy of that blessing. I bore my testimony that the promises and blessings of the Word of Wisdom are true and we all felt the Spirit and were very touched by the truth of this scripture. Liseth said, "It really shows that God exists, doesn't it?" Sharing past experiences in Spanish is difficult for me and something I am working on, but the Lord truly blessed me with the gift of tongues and they understood the meaning of the experience through the Spirit.

                                                          A fine group going home!

The water causes some challenges for our missionaries. They get mosquitos bites and they get infected. One hermana has had terrible infected bites and then she fell on her knee and had a terrible huge scratch and that got infected too. Stomach infections and parasites cause problems also, even though the pensionistas use only bottled water. At the beginning of the month, two missionaries went to do service and were very hot and thirsty. They had not brought water with them and they were offered water that they knew was probably not filtered. One missionary declined drinking the water, but the other missionary drank it and thought he would be okay. He got violently ill; diarrhea, throwing up massive amounts and a temperature of 106 degrees. When I found out, I sent him immediately to the hospital. He ended up being admitted for one night where they had to keep his temperature down and keep him hydrated with an IV and medication. He was doing better the next day, but I don't think either of those missionaries will ever drink unfiltered water again!

Parasites cause problems like stomach aches, nausea and diarrhea. Some missionaries have stomach issues for their whole mission, but they refuse to give up! Other issues: There have been dozens of ingrown toenails. Usually they are infected by the time the missionaries give in to getting treatment. We have dealt with lice and fleas on many occassions and dog bites too. It is amazing to see the sacrifices missionaries make and their dedication to the work. They just keep on going no matter what.

                                               The sweet fruit of sacrifice and diligence!

Yesterday we interviewed two missionaries who are serving in a very small town, of about 6,000 people and the whole town is without running water. The water main to the pueblito broke. A big truck with a tank comes with water about once a week and the water is rationed. The missionaries only get two buckets of water every two days in order to bathe and flush the toilet. And they say it looks and smells terrible! After their interview's, we brought them to our home to take a shower and have a bowl of fruit loops with cold milk. That is a real treat for our missionaries! I think they felt a little revived and rejuvenated. They were hoping the water would be fixed when they returned to their apartment. Everyone please keep your fingers crossed!

                                                          Gorgeous views of Chota!

Last week was challenging for me. It was extremely busy and I also got sick. We had our Leadership Council on Tuesday which is an all day meeting. Mark had three meetings with stake Presidents that night, then for the next three days we had interviews with 28 missionaries a day. In the midst of all of this, I had another bout with diarrhea and severe migraine headaches. Then, also, Wednesday night, while Mark was at another meeting, our water filter in our bathroom broke, so in the midst of everything else, with very little time, Mark was trying to fix the water. One night it flooded our bathroom. We kind of felt like everything was against us. At the end of the week we were exhausted and Mark had to leave to go out of town for two days. He went to a small branch named "Chota" to call a new Branch President. As we talked when he returned home, I told him the good thing about last week is that this coming week has to be better!

President at work - every six weeks!

The Board. Where all change happens.

There are so many things I have learned to be thankful for that I totally took for granted in the past. Some of these include: clean water, windows with screens, insulated windows, carpet, beautiful floors, painted walls, comfortable furniture, air conditioning, heating, nice fabric stores, backyards and front yards, (the kids here play in the streets), paved roads and clean streets. There are so many foods I am grateful for: Any kind of lettuce, baby spinach, fresh milk, creamy yogurt, cheddar cheese, whole wheat bread, croutons, canned soup, sour cream, cottage cheese, lemons, to name just a few. On Easter I realized how thankful I am for white eggs. I love the beautiful colors of dyed Easter eggs, but there is only one kind of egg here: brown. You cannot color a brown egg! Eggs come in one size and one quantity: 15. I am thankful for holidays, special days, decorations and all the fun traditions we have in the United States.

                                                 Homemade ladder. He was way up there.

Easter was pretty special for us because we did get to focus more on the true meaning of the day. Everyday, the week before Easter, we had the opportunity to read about the events in the Savior's life and follow His course to Gethsemane and Golgotha. Our beautiful Easter Book, made by our sweet sister-in-law Eileen, made it easier to visualize all the events. What a week it was for the Savior! I tried to imagine what it was like for Him to know for so long ahead of time the ordeal that He would go through. There are many things in life that I dread doing, but nothing in comparison to what he was going to experience. It is the first Easter that neither Mark or I had one piece of Easter candy, but amazingly, we still felt the same joy of the triumph of His Resurrection. What a blessing to have the Spirit of Peace from Conference fill our home. We have so much to be thankful for and it is all made better through the Atonement and the Grace of Jesus Christ.