A family Mark had the privilege to teach.
I know that my posts are getting farther and farther apart, but it is such a challenge to find the time to write! We just go from one event to another. This afternoon we had the privilege of teaching a lesson with the sisters to a very special woman named Thomasa. She is around 60 years of age and has been a widow for fourteen years. She has two children and six grand children. Her daughter and those two grand-kids live with her and she takes care of her them while her daughter works. She also takes care of her mother of 97 years of age who is pretty much bedridden. The first time I met her I was so amazed at all that she does for so many and was humbled by her willingness to serve.
One of our Missionary's Mom sent us a cake mix.
Today was her final lesson as an investigator because she will be baptized on Saturday. She is looking forward to this opportunity to make covenants with the Lord and to having the blessings of the gospel in her life. As we talked to her today, it was very evident that she is converted to the gospel and that she is a sincere and humble person. She expressed her appreciation for all that she has learned and expressed her desire to continue learning more. Her family does not really understand what she is doing but have told her they will support her if this is what she wants and if it makes her happy. She assured them that it does and feels that her life has already changed for the better. It was such a great opportunity to feel the Spirit and know that she is pure and honest in heart. I hope I can attend her baptism. She has been prepared and chosen. I have learned a lot from her example.
We attend district meetings every Wednesday!
It's so fun to hang out with missionaries!
My birthday gift from Edna. She keeps us going!
We also learned a great lesson from our "Employee of the House," Edna. In our mission we have a branch called Chachapoyas, (because it's in Chachapoyas). It is not in the boundaries of any stake so our mission is responsible for it. It is an eight hour drive from Chiclayo. About two months ago, a member of that branch, who is a recent convert, began having a mild heart attack. He was advised that he needed to go to a hospital that provided state medical care, so he was driven by ambulance to a hospital in Chiclayo, over eight hours. He had open heart surgery and stayed in the hospital for 30 days. The only way they would allow his wife to stay with him was if she slept in the hospital. So she slept on a little mat for 30 days.
When he was discharged, this couple could not go to Chachapoyas because the man had to have three follow up visits and the eight hour drive was too much for him. This newly baptized couple had no where to go. As my husband discussed this problem with one of his counselors, he had an idea. He would just pay someone to let them live in their house. Then he thought of our maid Edna. She has two children in the mission field now, is a widow and he thought that she could use the extra money. He told her about the situation and before he had even finished, she said without any hesitation that it would be fine for them to stay with her, but that she could not take any money for that. My husband reminded her that it was for thirty days! She said, "No problem." We drove to the hospital to pick the couple up and take them to Edna's home. When we came in, we found that she had moved out and prepared her own bedroom for them to stay in, so they would be more comfortable. She did not even know this couple, but was totally willing to sacrifice for and serve them.
We ordered "Hawaiian" pizza at a new Italian
Restaurant. It came with pineapple, peaches
and marachino cherries! Very original!
Last month I had the opportunity to train the pensionistas in our mission. These are women who open their homes to the missionaries to feed them every day, three times a day, sometimes for years. I am constantly amazed at their willingness to serve and sacrifice. Some of them have been doing this for 15-20 years. I don't think I could ever do this. I am way too selfish. In one of the meetings, I was thanking the women for their service and said that I know it is a sacrifice of their time. One pensionista raised her hand and said, "But Sister Williams, you don't understand. It is such a great blessing for us to have the missionaries in our home. They bring the Spirit with them when they come and our families are blessed." We have learned a lot from the Peruvians about willingness to serve.
I went to a lesson with two sisters, one from Ecuador and one from Lima. We entered a humble home with cement floors and very little space. Peruvian homes are built right next to each other. They share walls that have no insulation. A lot of times they have very little privacy. This home had a huge window in the wall with their neighbor. The window was open and there was music blasting pretty loud. As we got ready to start the lesson, the sister from Lima went to the window and yelled, "Can you turn down the volume please? We're having a lesson!" I thought this sister was pretty bold to speak to a neighbor like that. Then she told me that the neighbor was a member of the church. That made me feel a little better. At least they understood what was going on. They did turn the music down!
"Cambios" or transfers.
The sister introduced me to the investigators. There was a 74 year old woman, her daughter-in-law and her granddaughter that we were teaching. Her son was also there. He was a less active member of the church. So I met this cute little 75 year old woman for the first time. We talked about our families and I told her that I have 13 grandchildren. She gasped in surprise and said that I didn't look like I was old enough to have 13 grandchildren. I said that I was and told her I had my 55th birthday two days before. Again she gasped and cried, "Oh, I didn't know!" like she had done a terrible thing in forgetting my birthday. She had already forgotten that she just met me two minutes before. It was so cute and pretty funny! Bless her heart, she treated us to a dessert she made us after the lesson. It was some kind of pudding, I guess, made from corn starch and milk. It was very sweet of her to make it for us. Many times when the people feed us, they give us food, but they don't eat with us. They just sit and watch us eat. That is very unfortunate when it turns out to be something that you don't like. I just eat very slowly so time runs out before it is all eaten!
Enjoying lunch at Leadership Council
We do lots of role plays
"Us" on my 55th Birthday. My favorite
comment on Facebook was from Pam,
"Your last birthday in Peru!"
So much has happened in the last month and a half, but the highlight was to have Lisa and Hayden come to visit us! They were here from September 24th to the 29th and it was really fun to have them here. We only had about three days to do all the tourist stuff, so we packed in all that we could! They got to see the Pyramids of Tucume, the Central Market, The Sipan Musem, Pimentel Beach, Eten Beach and do some souvenir shopping in Monsefu. They got to taste Chica Morada, Huancaina and Picarrones! They loved every minute of it! The highlight for me was that they were here for my 55th birthday! It is not often I get to have my kids around for my birthday, so to have one of them here while I'm in Peru was quite a miracle. All of my children surprised me and came home for my 50th birthday, so Lisa was the only one around for my 50th and my 55th! She was excited about that. We ate at our favorite restaurant, 409 Grill, which has excellent food and then went to Chani's, a dessert place. The man who owns it, studied the culinary arts in New York City in the United States and the desserts are amazing! It's always a treat to go there!
Lisa's face the first time she saw her Dad in over two years.
Picnic dinner on our patio with the new arrivals.
Saying goodbye is the hard part!
We get asked to speak at a lot of different events. Last month we spoke to two different wards about marriage. This month Mark was asked to speak at a Stake Youth Conference. They asked him to speak for one and a half hours! Mark did such an excellent job and is so good at keeping the youth's attention. He showed some different videos, had them do some role plays of how to do missionary work and bore his powerful testimony of many things. When we drove up to the church, these two little street urchins were playing in the dirt street next to the church. They had a little piece of blue cloth that they were pretending was a blanket and they were sleeping under it. Then they would get up and "wash" their hands in a mud puddle. They were so cute to watch. There are a lot of children in the world who have no idea what a yard or a grass lawn is, unless they go to an LDS church or a park, if there is one. They were thrilled when we gave them a coin and a little gem stone.
Cute little guys!
We are in the middle of interviews right now. It will take about five days of interviews for us to get to talk to all the missionaries. We talk to 28 in each day and it is pretty intense. The other day I had a really special experience. I asked a missionary to share with me something that he had learned in General Conference. He had really enjoyed a talk by Elder Nattress. Elder Nattress shared how his mother had read to them from the Book of Mormon everyday. His words had caused this missionary to reflect on all that his mother had taught him and all she had tried to do for him. He shared the scriptures in Alma 56:47-48 that tell how the stripling warriors rehearsed to Helaman that their mothers had taught them if they did not doubt that God would deliver them from the Lamanites.
These Elders gave me flowers for my birthday!
In that moment, I suddenly had a memory of my mother reading Book of Mormon stories to me. She was the first person who shared the story of the Stripling Warriors with me. I had not thought about it for a long time, but she was the first person who really instilled in me a love for the Book of Mormon when I was only a young girl. After I had this thought, the Spirit said, "And look how that love has grown and grown throughout your life." I was really touched with gratitude for what my Mom had done for me. The love she instilled in me inspired me to read the Book of Mormon for myself and to find out if it was true.
The "Sapo Guapo." A nickname first used by
Koko Head. The handsome Toad!
This is a park where we walk frequently.
The first time I read the Book of Mormon, I was 15 years old. I decided to read it during the summer when I had more time. I had the exact experience described in Alma 32. Each day as I read "the word began to swell within my breast" as I felt the Spirit very strongly each time that I read. The word began "to enlarge my soul," "to enlighten my understanding" and "to be delicious to me." (Alma 32:28) I found myself anxiously looking forward to that time each day when I could read the Book of Mormon. Needless to say, when I finished reading it I already knew it was true. The Spirit had told me it was true everyday, every time that I read. I have shared this story with many missionaries and many investigators and I always feel the same witness that it is true. My love has grown for this book each day as I have continued to study it and have tried to follow it for the last forty years. It is truly an amazing miracle. I feel so much gratitude for a faithful mother who diligently read me the stories of the Book of Mormon everyday. I am also grateful for a humble missionary who has gratitude and love for his mother.
Today I interviewed a missionary who is about to finish his mission. He will be returning home in 11 days. I asked him what he had learned from his mission. He told me many things: He has learned to really love and understand the power of the Book of Mormon, how to study the scriptures, how to get along with other people and how to really love other people, to have more patience with himself, to trust in God. He bore witness to me that he has seen miracles everyday. He also learned that as we grow closer to Christ, we become more like Him because he changes us and we develop and grow in charity. As Elder Bednar has said, "A mission is not the best two years of your life, but the best two years for your life." I felt this was so beautifully stated by this very young, but very faithful and wise missionary. I am 55 years old, but I can honestly say that this mission has changed my life. I will never be the same person I was and hopefully the changes have made me a better person. I am so thankful for this opportunity to serve and to grow.