Friday, November 20, 2015

If we are Built upon the Rock of Christ, We will Prevail

This is our entire mission in August when Elder Bednar came! Our mission has had two changes since this picture was taken, so it is already somewhat outdated; but, for the most part, this is our mission. For example, there are about ten sisters here that have gone home and about ten new ones that are not in the picture. Elders as well. It is amazing to me how things are constantly changing in the mission. Obviously, we have a lot more Elders than sisters and more Latins than Americans.

So I have done my demographic study of our mission for the year of 2015. Here are the statistics: We have 138 missionaries, with 56% (77) Latins and 43% (61) Americans. We have 12 countries represented in our mission: 1 from the Dominican republic (our first), 2 from Canada, Argentina, Honduras, Paraguay and Mexico, 5 from Chile, 6 from Ecuador, 8 from Colombia, 13 from Bolivia, 34 from Peru with 23 of them from Lima, and 61 from the United States with over half of them, 32, from Utah. We have 28 sisters which is about 20% and 110 Elders which is 80% of our missionaries. So that is the scoop on our Mission!
                                           Out with the oldies and goodies;

                                           in with the new and fantastic!

November has been an extremely busy month with interviews for five days in Chiclayo and a trip to Jaen in the middle for interviews and a Stake Conference. Then the beginning of this week, we had changes. We sent home 9 missionaries on Monday and received 12 missionaries on Tuesday and had interviews with them all. We had another Stake Conference last weekend and will have four more to make six in a row for six weekends. I speak twice and Mark has the privilege of speaking three times for each Conference. Sometimes they give us a topic and most often they do not. I have been speaking about marriage and the atonement.

                                                    We have a tradition of going to the
                                                      beach every six weeks. With our
                                                                new missionaries

One of my favorite things to do in interviews is to ask the missionaries what their new favorite
scripture is. It is so amazing to hear all of their insights about the scriptures. I want to share a few of my favorites:

One Elder shared Mosiah 2:25: "And now i ask, can ye say ought of yourselves? I answer you, Nay. Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; yet ye were created of the dust of the earth; but behold it belongeth to him who created you." We talked about what we felt that this scripture means, not they we are worthless or of no value, but that we are nothing without God. We are dependent on Him for everything. Some people who do not believe in God, say that they only need to depend on themselves and those of us who depend on God are weak. But they would not even exist or have anything that they need to live without God.

Then I shared Mosiah 4:11 with a similar theme; "And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long suffering towards you, unworthy creatures . . ."  Not only are we nothing without God, but we are nothing in comparison to God. We are sinful and imperfect and yet he is patient and long suffering with us and grants us Mercy. We need to always remember His goodness and greatness. I really felt the power and truth of this teaching that day.

This is related to a scripture that a sister shared with me, Mosiah 25:16; "And he did exhort the people of Limhi and his brethren, all those that had been delivered out of bondage, that they should remember that it was the Lord that did deliver them." She said that when she read this, it really hit her how important it is to remember what the Lord has done for us in the past because it gives us hope and strengthens our faith in the present. So next she drew a diagram and made a web of all the times the Lord has helped her on her mission. This Sister has had many challenges with things like her health, loneliness and other external forces (like dogs) that have been out of her control and this gave her great comfort to remember that the Lord has helped her and been with her when she has needed His help. Like Nephi said, we are so quick to forget. It would strengthen the faith of all of us if we were more quick to remember. This is a theme repeated very often in the scriptures. After all, we covenant to always remember every Sunday when we partake of the sacrament.

                                        Mark performed a baptism on Halloween. I guess
                                         you could say this was his Halloween Costume!

There was one scripture passage that gave me great comfort, one day, that was exactly what I needed to hear. It is D&C 6:33-36. It says, "Fear not to do good, my sons, for whatsoever ye sow, that shall ye also reap; therefore, if ye sow good ye shall also reap good for your reward.

"Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail.

"Behold I do not condemn you; go your ways and sin no more; perform with soberness the work which I have commanded you.

"Look to me in every thought; doubt not, fear not."

I love it that the Lord says that no matter what is going on or who is fighting against us, we do not need to fear and they, whoever they are, will never prevail. With all the horrible things going on in the world right now and even in the church, this is a very comforting truth to me. My heart was filled with hope and gratitude that day for the gospel and for the comfort of the scriptures. I know that I could never make it through this life without the strength and the faith that comes to me from the scriptures.

                                      My husband's Mission Presidency; President
                                              Diaz, Mark and President Castillo      

Another missionary told me about a recent convert of only two weeks. Every time they visit him, he begins to cry and says, "Why would you come so far to share this message with me? Why did you knock on my door?" This is what missionary work is really about; touching the lives of precious souls one at a time. "Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God." (D&C 18:10) This is why we come so far and we knock on so many doors. This work is a miracle!

                                                   Trip to Jaen. Mark with Assistants.

On a lighter note, two weeks ago, I mentioned that we went to Jaen for interviews and a stake conference. We drove up on a Friday and before we started interviews, we went to visit the room of the Zone Leaders. It is a pretty large room and they had a lot of "stuff" cluttering the room; piles and mountains of stuff. My husband, of course, does not like that. Anyone who knows him well knows that he is neat, clean, a perfectionist and that he does not like clutter. But missionaries are always afraid to throw anything away. (Except my son Eric) We had an hour before interviews started, so Mark said, "Okay, we're going to clean this out. Get rid of all this stuff!" My husband started picking things up and asking who they belonged to and if anyone used them. Usually the answer was "no." So my husband and the four Elders began to carry boxes and boxes of junk, and furniture out of the apartment.

                                           Here's some of the stuff . . .

There was one lady and this guy in the tank top
who came first. They took away a haul of stuff.
You can see her pile on the other side!

In Peru, all you need to do is put stuff out on the street and it will disappear. It was like a free garage sale that day and the neighbors had a heyday. It was so fun to watch them gathering treasures and making piles for themselves. It reminded me of Christmas. They were so happy and having a great time! Peruvians do not take anything for granted. I love giving to them because they are always so grateful.

                                         Halloween 2015 with the office. We had a Cell
                                          Service Technician, Mohammed Ali, A Golfer
                                                    and a Pharisee that came to dine.

I have never felt as loved as I have felt here in Peru; by the missionaries and the members.They are just grateful that we are willing to be here to help them with missionary work. But sometimes I feel like the hugging is a little out of control. Sometimes I don't want to go places because I know I will have to hug everyone and I am just plain tired, especially at night. For instance, when we go to the airport and there are members there, say 20 to 30, I need to hug all of them to say hello. Then if we leave five minutes later, I need to hug all of them to say goodbye. After a day of cooking and preparing for a dinner in the Mission Home, I am just way too tired for hugging! Sometimes I try to sneak out the back door of the airport.

                                         Halloween Tradition: Eating Bloody Eyeball Subs!

                                           We had two trick or treaters! A record over last
                                             year. We had zero. They really don't celebrate
                                             Halloween here and don't understand why we
                                             do. Holidays here are religious or patriotic.

Once after a Stake Conference, a man came toward me. I don't think he went to church very often because he grabbed me and went in for the hug. Most men in the church know they are not supposed to hug sister missionaries, but this man did not seem to be aware of that. With the hug, you also give a little peck on the cheek. I knew he was coming in, but did not have time to retreat. At the last second, he decided to change to the other side, and for a minute we almost kissed on the lips! It was a close call and a little awkward, but I managed to avoid it! Another time an elderly man just grabbed me and hugged me and hugged me saying that my message was wonderful and that he felt the Spirit. He was a little overly exuberant, but I appreciated his love and gratitude.

                                           My new office in the Mission Office with brand
                                                               new matching furniture.
                                                   I'm so excited to be a real person now!

One more thing about interviews: They were a special treat this time because I did not have to do them in the supply closet! For almost a year and a half, I have never had my own space. Our Mission Office has never had an office for the Mission President's wife, but two weeks ago, I moved into my new office! A couple months ago, the Facilities "Guy" for the church in Chiclayo, came to my husband and I and said that he wanted to build me a new office. He explained his plan of how to do it pretty easily. We were thrilled and thought it was a great idea! The only down side was that they could not do it until March of 2016 because it had not been allocated in the budget. But it turned out they had a little extra money this year, so my husband talked them into doing it in a little less expensive way, without me knowing about it. He managed to keep me away from the office for a week while they were remodeling the whole office and it was a mess. We had a meeting that Friday in the chapel and the minute it was over Mark said, "I'm taking you home!" I really wanted to see what they had been doing all week in the office, but my husband insisted that it was such a mess and I should not go there. On Saturday, we had another meeting and this time at the end, Mark immediately said, "Let's go to the office!" I walked in and did not even notice that there was a brand new wall to the right of me. I was more interested in the other side of the office. Finally, my husband said, "Did you see this over here and pointed me to the other side. This is what I saw: A new wall and a brand new office just for me! I feel like a new person, like I really am part of the mission now! I have a space! It is wonderful! My husband is wonderful too! He always make sure I am taken care of.

                                            No door yet!

Fake furniture at first. 
Two file cabinets with a board on top.

Lots of changes in the main office.
Missionaries working hard.

I mentioned to my daughter Lisa that I spoke at an evening session of Conference and talked about what we have done to have unity in our marriage. She told me how she loves to hear advice about marriage, so I thought I would share my thoughts. Here are the most important things I feel we have done to have a strong marriage: (And there is no way we can make it through this mission experience without it!)

1. We have prayed together every night before we go to bed. You cannot continue to hold a grudge when you pray as a couple. The Spirit comes and softens your heart and the bad feelings melt away. (there are only a few times we have had those feelings, of course!)

2. We try to make time to talk every day. This is not always easy, but we should be interested in the lives and feelings of our spouse. One great way to do this is going on walks together. We love to do that.

3. We have gone on a date every week when possible. Making time to date shows how important our marriage is to us. It is the best day of the week; one we look forward to all week.

4. We have tried to go to the temple as often as possible, at least every month. Every time we attend the temple, it is amazing how my love increases for my husband. President Hinckley said that every time we attend the temple, we leave it as a better man or woman. So it makes sense that we leave as better husbands and wives also.

5. We greet each other and say goodbye with a kiss. Parting should never be a casual thing. When we moved to one area 20 years ago, y husband had some tough seminary classes. He came home exhausted every day and just wanted some time alone. So for the first time in our marriage, he did not come and say hello to me, but just headed straight to our bedroom to hide for a while. When I realized this was happening, I was a little hurt that he did not want to see me when he got home. So we talked about this and made a rule that we always had to say goodbye and hello with a kiss when coming or going. After that, Mark was allowed to retreat to the bedroom for some peace and quiet. It may seem like a small thing, but this has strengthened our marriage. For years and years, Mark would come home and in a very loud voice he would say, "I come home and I kiss the Guapa!" These words are ingrained in the minds of our children for eternity!

6. The next thing is very simple, but not always easy when we are tired, stressed or frustrated: We need to be nice. There was a study done of marriages that endured for a long time. The one common denominator they found in all of these marriages was that they treated each other with kindness and respect. I believe that Moroni 7:45-47 applies well here. If we never think evil of our companion and are kind and long suffering, our marriages will be strong.

I am so grateful for the charity my husband has for me. He has never said one thing unkind or negative to any other person about me. Always he sees me as perfect! But that is not because I am perfect. I am brim full of weaknesses and problems. He always sees the good in me and refuses to see the bad. He has never failed me. He is my faithful friend forever. I love him with all of my heart!

                                             Sorry! Have to put in some pics of the grand kids!
                                                Halloween is much more fun in the States.


And the family.

And the strange uncle.

                                                             And the big kids!
                                                     The Newlyweds are so cute!

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