Welcome to Chiclayo! It's a huge sign.
I think I mentioned in one of my blogs, that you can pay somebody to watch your car for you when you park on the street, especially at night. Many neighborhoods and restaurants have security guards sitting or standing by the parking watching the area. Most large businesses have a gated parking lot to protect your car from thieves. We have actually had the mirrors stolen off of our car twice now, so the threat of being robbed is real. Sometimes it becomes a little annoying when we don't feel we're in need of their services, but they are always there to help! You can also get your car washed at the mall while you shop or at another large grocery store in town. It is actually pretty convenient and they do it all by hand. The only problem is when you don't want your car washed and to try and convince them that the car is not dirty or that it was just washed the day before!
My 54th Birthday at Pimentel Beach.
My 2nd Birthday in Peru!
We just finished our second mission tour with President/Elder Uceda, the President of our Area, and his wife. It was a privilege and a learning experience, but also difficult and exhausting. We started the tour on Wednesday, October 14, 2015 with a Zone Conference with all of the missionaries in our mission. This is the first time we have had a Conference like this. The Ucedas greeted each of our missionaries and then they took pictures with each zone. My husband had things very organized throughout the conference and everything went very smooth. I spoke about four keys to missionary work and my husband spoke about the Stripling Warriors and how their experiences relate to the missionaries. It was a fantastic talk. Sister Uceda spoke for forty minutes, we had a ten minute break and then Elder Uceda spoke the remainder of the time.
Lot's of missionaries!
Eating lunch at Zone Conference.
His remarks were very powerful and all of the counsel he gave to the missionaries was excellent. He spoke about the importance of obedience in exactness and that the Missionary Handbook is a standard work for the missionaries. He pointed out that there are no disobedient Gods in the Celestial Kingdom. I never realized it, but the most stressed rule in the handbook is that a missionary should never be alone without his companion. Elder Uceda demonstrated to us that it says this at least 11 or 12 times in the Handbook. This was very eye opening and a witness of how important this is. In a very powerful way, he called the missionaries to repentance. He said "Why are you afraid to open your mouth when you have been called of God? You need to repent and open your mouths!"
He also strongly encouraged the Latin Elders to learn the English Language. Elder Uceda has been such a great example of this to the missionaries. He speaks English very well and the Area Presidency Meeting every Tuesday is conducted in English. He told them they do not learn because they are afraid. He said, "Face your fears and learn English!" He gave this counsel; 1) Get a blessing, 2) Ask God for help and the gift of tongues, 3) Learn 5-7 new verbs every week. Great counsel that I am using in learning Spanish.
Elder Uceda explained that one of the obstacles to missionary work in Peru, is that many Peruvians do not understand the need to attend church every week, because of their religious background. To help the missionaries with this challenge he also had three suggestions; 1) Have faith in Jesus Christ that miracles will happen, 2) Invite investigators to pray and read the Book of Mormon. He said if they are not following through on their commitments, then to visit them each day for a few minutes and pray and read with them. That is good advice! 3) Commit the members of the Ward Council to accompany them to church each Sunday. Great advice again! He stressed the importance of getting investigators to act, just like Elder Bednar did, because this is how they are converted to the gospel, not by missionaries talking them into it. He quoted Elder Bednar, "Talking is not teaching!"
Sisters with cookies!
For the next two days our schedule was filled. We fed the Ucedas twice in the Mission Home, attended a meeting of ward and stake councils, met with the missionary leaders in our mission and had a meeting with Elder Uceda and the Assistants. Mark and Elder Uceda also met with Mark's District Presidency and with Priesthood Leaders. That was Wednesday and Thursday. Friday morning we left early and drove five hours to Jaen. We curved through mountains the last 21/2 hours. The men met with Priesthood leaders and then we all met with the ward councils in Jaen. Saturday morning we left for Chachapoyas, drove three hours, met with the Saints, then drove back to Jaen another three hours. Elder Uceda met with less active families all night and my husband worked with missionaries. Sunday morning we drove back to Chiclayo five hours. The Ucedas spent a few hours meeting with their former missionaries from when they served over the Lima North Mission. At 4:00, we drove them to the airport and said farewell. What a week! We collapsed! My poor husband had been sick all week. He went to bed at about 8:30 that night.
Mark and I with President and Sister
Uceda. What a great privilege!
I had to add one more story. We had a Regional Conference this morning by Satellite with all of Peru and Bolivia. Elder Uceda spoke about the temple and then Elder Neil A. Andersen spoke about the Uceda's. He told the story of their marriage in the temple. When they were married in 1979, there was only one temple in South America and it was in Sao Paulo Brazil. This meant they had to make a 3,000 mile journey to be married in the temple. Realizing that it was going to take awhile to earn the money to make this trip, Elder Uceda suggested that they get married civilly first and then work to earn the money. Sister Uceda said emphatically, "I will get married in the temple or I will not get married at all!" When they had enough money, they flew from Lima to Arequipa, then went by bus from Arequipa to Bolivia. They had to cross the flooded jungles of Bolivia in boats. Then they went by bus from Bolivia to Sao Paulo and were married in the temple. Sister Uceda said that they did not have any parents, friends or family at the temple, she had no wedding dress, they did not exchange rings and they had no reception, but they were sealed in the temple and started their family the Lord's way.
The importance of attending the temple is a theme that Elder Uceda speaks about often. I have heard him talk about it three times now. When we were in Chachapoyas, he encouraged the Saints to attend the temple more often now that there is a temple in Trujillo. When they informed him it was a 12 hour trip for them to go to Trujillo, Elder Uceda said, "That's nothing!" I winced a little, but I realize now that he really meant that. It took he and his wife 14 days to travel to and from the Sao Paulo Brazil Temple. Twelve hours really is nothing to them! What a great example they are and have always been to the saints in Peru.
A few weeks ago, Mark and I attended a baptism. The baptism was simple. It was even a little disorganized, but I was impressed with the faith of this young man to follow the example of Jesus Christ and to be baptized into His church. Carlos was only 18 years old and was there all by himself, with no family or friends, getting baptized. There were only 12 people there, including us and the missionaries, so only 8 ward members. It was so humble, but oh what faith! When the opening hymn started to be sung, "I am a Child of God", the Spirit touched his heart and he put his face in his hands and cried. After the baptism, he told my husband and I, that there have been problems in his family and many times in his life he has felt that he was all alone, but since the missionaries have been teaching him, he has not felt that way anymore. When I think of how many members of this church take their membership and the gospel for granted, I wish they could witness baptisms like this and the joy of these converts in finding this Pearl of Great Price. Some of them truly give up everything to have it!
An eighteen year old with great faith and courage.
There are two thoughts from General Conference that I would like to share, because they are two thoughts that I have also had in this mission that have really helped me a lot. The first is from Elder Stevenson, newly called apostle. He was struggling with how inadequate he felt to fulfill his new calling but he had the feeling, "Just focus on what you can do." This is the exact same feeling I have had on this mission, because the language barrier has been such a great obstacle to me. The Spirit also told me to focus on what I can do, especially in the beginning when I felt really useless. i couldn't speak fluently, but I could ask the missionaries where they were from or how they were doing. I couldn't understand much, but I felt many impressions from the Spirit. I could not speak very well and express my love in the interviews, but I could make them cookies! This is a principle we can all practice when we are overwhelmed with something we have been asked to do.
More cookies for missionaries.
I can do that.
The second thought was from Elder Hales quoted by Elder Bednar. When Elder Bednar asked him about fulfilling his responsibilities as an apostle with mounting health challenges, Elder Hales wisely stated, "When you cannot do what you have always done in the past, you focus on the things that are the most important." I have also struggled with some health challenges while trying to fulfill this calling and sometimes have worried if I am doing enough, but this counsel from Elder Hales gave me comfort and reassurance that I am doing the things that really matter, and in the Lord's eyes, that is enough. As King Benjamin said; "And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order, for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize, therefore, all things must be done in order."
I also know that there have been so many times that I have been strengthened and buoyed up through the Atonement of Christ. Many times I have prayed for health and strength when I have felt it was impossible for me to do what was required and in the very moment that I needed it, through the grace of Christ, the help and strength has come. This is what is meant by grace, the strengthening ansd enabling power of the atonement. One of my very favorite scriptures at this time in my life is Moroni 10:32-33. "Yea, come unto Christ and be perfected in him . . . that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ . . . 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 . . . that ye become holy, without spot." I love to know that I do not have to be perfect! Of course, we have to put forth our best effort, but we will never be perfect without Christ! What a comforting thought this is to me. All of my weaknesses and mistakes, physical and spiritual, will be made perfect in Christ. If we truly believe this and understand this, then why are we so hard on ourselves?
I also love these comforting words; "And God shall wipe all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." I love the gospel and I love my Savior Jesus Christ. I know that he suffered and died for our sins, pains, sicknesses, and temptations. I am so thankful for the opportunity I have been given to bear testimony of this many, many times in this mission and hope that I will continue to have these opportunities throughout my life.