Tuesday, December 25, 2012

"It's Christmas Eve!"

Hola hola hola hola!!

It’s Christmas Eve! And I’ve only wrapped… no presents. I gotta confess I totally blew it with Christmas gifts this year. Well, last year I did too. But this year I didn’t even write a single Christmas letter to nobody!! Sorry if you’ve been waiting for one. I still owe people letters from like a hundred months ago and when I can’t ever even find time to write them it’s kind of hard to skip ahead and start writing other people for Christmas. Seriously I’ve owed Hermana Rosa and her family a letter for over five months now. And other people back home for longer than that. And basically all of my converts who I haven’t been keeping in contact with! Y’know, maybe if they just made it not-against-the-rules to e-mail other people, it would be a heck of a lot easier to keep in contact with everyone. I feel bad about my letter writing situation. I feel bad for not writing my family some short Christmas letters like I did last year. You’d think in the office I’d have more time to write letters, but I actually have less. In my other areas I found the time to write the occasional letter. Here, no. Oh well. The other thing is that when I actually do write a letter and then mail it to the US I always get paranoid that it never arrived because of the long gaps of silence in between letter communications. And I also wonder how many letters have been sent to me that never got to me. Unreliable mail system.

Y´know, last October (a long time ago!!) I actually did buy two really little gifts for Dad and for Sam that I was planning to send you last Christmas but then I never did because, one, I only had presents for Dad and Sam and not Mom, Bryn, or Jacqueline, and two, its expensive to send things home. I still have them. Probably gonna hold onto them until I get home. Because I still don’t have anything for Mom, Bryn, or Jacqueline. The amount of times I’ve gone shopping in Peru is zero times. So that’s why. I’ll try to get something before I go home!


Here’s what it was like. Every Sunday we report to our zone leaders our weekly numbers in lessons, contacts, baptisms, investigators attending church, etc, etc, etc… Remember in the Best Two Years how the missionary is reporting Elder Roger’s numbers and they’re just so unreasonably low that it seems unrealistic and almost unbelievable? Well, those are the same kind of numbers I’m reporting these days. Last night I reported to Elder Tamani. Let’s turn to my journal to see what it was like:


I reported my all-time worst numbers to Elder Tamani, my zone leader, tonight. Zero, zero, zero, zero… pure zeros. With one lesson with an inactive family. The worst numbers of all time!! Elder Tamani’s response to those numbers was “Elder Hemsley… You have to write that in your journal!” So, here it is. Zeros.

I could bore you with the details of why I was in the office the entire week, but, well, it’s boring, so I don’t want to. I’ll leave it at I had to do a million and ten things and then two days ago end of month payments started, and to avoid having to do them on Christmas, I did them on Sunday. I didn’t even teach on Sunday! So, if you think I have fun things to tell you about this week, think again!

Well, I guess there was one thing. On Thursday our ward had a talent show activity for Christmas time. I’ve been to like six church talent show activities since I’ve been to Peru, and let me tell you, Peruvians have no idea what a “talent show” is. They might as well just call them “ward choir nights” because all every “talent” is, is one of the organizations singing a hymn. So boring!! And, this isn’t exactly a culture that knows how to sing either. It’s the same in all of my areas. Anyway, they asked the four of us missionaries to participate, and so we came up with a quick skit last minute (Elder Perea wanted to sing a hymn. Nooooooooooooooo…). I’m getting lazy so I’m just gonna feed you more of my journal entries so I don’t have to think:


Today was our ward talent show and us four elders performed a little skit. A stupid, funny version of the David and Goliath battle, complete with a hit “Eye of the Tiger” soundtrack. I was Goliath, and I got shot in the back of the head by a gun-wielding David. It was kind of LOLzy.

So, that was the one part of my week that wasn’t spent inside the office. The rest was spent in this same chair, in front of this same computer, the entire week.

You know what I’m thankful for? My journal. Did you know that if it weren’t for my journal, my e-mails to you would be way more boring? Every time before I e-mail you guys I go back through my journal and read about what happened in the week so I remember what stuff to tell you about. Plus, there are the times when I just pure copy and paste (well, that’s what I would do, if I could figure out a way to copy something handwritten and the paste it into the computer) entries from my journal to my e-mails for you to read. Sometimes I make it real obvious, like how I’ve been doing it in this e-mail, but lots of other times I’m just secretly feeding you journal entries without you guys knowing. I can guarantee that my e-mails would not be nearly as interesting if I didn’t keep this journal. You know what else? With all my daily journal entries (currently taking up three and a half journals!), and all these weekly e-mails, plus all the hundreds of pieces of mail I have, this two-year period of my life is almost certainly going to be the most well-documented portion of my entire life. I can’t imagine this ever happening again. But we’ll see I s’pose. The thing is, it’s the most well-documented portion of my life, but it barely even scratches the surface of what really happened! I don’t write about every single experience I have. I don’t write down every single thing that happened. There’s a huge amount of stuff that isn’t written. But, what is written, I will always be thankful for.

So, speaking of my journal, I’m just gonna feed you more journal entries. Here’s a thing that happened:


At one point today this guy called me who was like the head of Church finances in Lima, and had some questions for me about President Risso’s JPMorgan card and his spending. I explained to him some stuff and then he walked me through this thing on paymentnet and as this was happening I just had one of those “I can’t believe this is really happening” moments. Am I really secretary of finances talking with the head of Church finances in Lima in Spanish and working on closing the mission president’s card?? How is this real?! I’m still not totally convinced that all this is real. Maybe it’s all just a dream… Gosh dangit, if this has all been a dream then I’ve wasted a really huge chunk of my dream writing page after page of this non-existent journal…

I was also looking back at some of my earliest journal entries and realizing just how far I’ve really come. For example, when I was still in the MTC in Lima, and we went out to teach for real for my first time in my entire mission, and it freaked me out and left me feeling a bit down. Here’s what I wrote:


I don’t really know what to think of the experience. I just felt so inadequate and unprepared. People were coming back with all these great experiences and for the first time in my mission I’m feeling pretty discouraged and unhappy. Ugh. I need to practice so much. I am so uncomfortable with all of this. I can’t say I had a great night…

I read that the other night and I just wanted to reach out to my past self and give him a hug and tell him to hang in there!! Now, here I am, totally comfortable with the new language (though I still don’t speak perfect) and completely adjusted to life as a missionary. I’ve come a really long way. I’ve changed a whole lot.

And then I found some other journal entries that I thought were funny:


Today for breakfast we had what I like to call a mayonnaise sandwich. It was gross. Bread, with mayonnaise, and a tiny bit of eggs, and some tomatoes. Once upon a time a wise man once told me the secret to making a good mayonnaise sandwich. He said if you don’t put enough mayonnaise on it, it tastes bad, and if you put too much mayonnaise on it then… it still tastes good. Yep. That’s what I was taught years ago. There must not have been enough mayonnaise in there because it tasted nasty. Except mayonnaise is gross anyway so adding more, or “too much” wouldn’t have helped. Side note: They give us coffee for breakfast here [in the MTC in Lima]. Fer realz.


Worst. Halloween. Ever.

Here’s what we did for Halloween: nothing. That’s even worse than Halloween on a Sunday at BYU Idaho!

Hahaha for some reason that made me laugh. Journals are fun.

Anyway, Jacqueline, yes, keyboards are kind of weird here. I’m mostly used to it, but my muscle memory still wants to type the way we type in the United States of Awesome. It’s confusing. All the punctuation is different.

Snow! I missed snow!! I like how when it snows at home it’s like a big deal to me, but I studied two semesters in deep freezing snow and I didn’t care. Haha. Aww, I miss snow. I miss cold. These hot Christmases are just not doing it for me.

A new dog?!?! You’re getting a new dog?!??!??! Or maybe you already did? Hmm, I think I’m not going to make friends with this one, so I won’t be sad when he goes to doggy heaven. Actually, I feel like this is the exact same situation we were in when we got Rocket. You guys wanted a dog, and I didn’t want a dog, and then in the end I ended up loving Rocket anyway. Same thing. Don’t want another dog. Probably will love it anyway. Does it have a name yet? I got to pick Rocket’s name, but I feel like I need to throw some suggestions out there. Some of them leftover suggestions that we didn’t end up using for Rocket. Take your pick of the following!:

Marty McFly
Qui-gon Jinn
Tom Cruise
Skull Kid
Stoop Kid
Elder Hemsley
Brother of Jared
Kit Fisto
Happy Mask Salesman
Mr. Game & Watch
Ice Climbers

Well, I guess I might get to meet Ice Climbers tomorrow when we Skype (for now, I’m going to call him Ice Climbers) if he’s already at home! But any of those names are good names.

I can’t even believe its Christmas Eve! Christmas is tomorrow! HOW?! Too weird. Christmas here is way different. Basically, on Christmas Eve at midnight, the families have a big dinner and stay up until who knows when. Then, on Christmas day, nothing happens. Today is the big day. Tomorrow is nothing. We don’t get to eat dinner at midnight though, but we’re going to eat a little earlier with a family from the ward who lives in the same building as us. Just gotta drop down a few floors and we’re at their house! Tomorrow will be the big mission Christmas party in the institute building. Last year it was really fun. Excited about this year too. And then in the night I get to call you guys!! I can’t believe it! Elder Marker came in to the office the other day, and we started talking about how we can’t even believe that this is going to be our third out of four calls home. We’ve already been through three out of four General Conferences. We’re basically already on our way home!! How does time go so fast?? Don’t wanna get too myself too trunky, but, seriously, the months left before I’m home have dropped down into the single digits. This is ridiculous.

As for Christmas, it’s gonna be interesting I guess. The one thing I really like about Christmas here is that Christ still plays a big part of it. This is a place where Jesus Christ is still a huge part of their lives and such an important part of their culture. Of course, it’s also a place where an endless number of holy saints, holy virgins, and holy crosses are a huge part of their culture, but… at least they got the Jesus Christ part right. Although my last Christmas was less-than-ideal (flooded room, call home almost not working because our phone broke…), I’m always going to remember it for a couple of things. That day it was raining a lot. Our room wasn’t the only room that flooded. Basically half the town of Pacasmayo was dealing with flooding because these homes are just not built for rain! Elder Despain and I headed to church early that morning. We got to the chapel, but then decided we should go see an inactive member we’ve been visiting and invite him to come to church with us. So, before the meeting started, we left, and ran through Pacasmayo in the rain to get to this man’s house. He invited us in, and he was dealing with a major broken-roof flooding problem of his own. But, he decided he would get ready and come to church with us after all. The three of us went back to church together. He told us that it was his first time coming to church in seven years. Christmas day. That was a special Christmas moment. Later that day, Elder Despain and I went out to visit some families. I specifically remember visiting one family. We went to the poorest part of Pacasmayo, through a whole lot of mud and wet sand, to visit this family on Christmas. This family lived in what they call a “choza”. Or, basically, a house made of blue tarps and sticks. I’ve built more elegant forts in our playroom! The play structure in our backyard is a million times a better house than where this family was living. The very definition of extreme poverty. Their house was soaked too, obviously. We went in and visited with them. I had to duck because the “ceilings” were really low. They had us sit down, and then they offered us something to eat, and something to drink. And something about that just really got to me. This family, who almost literally has nothing, is freely offering us food and drink out of the kindness of their hearts. That is the true spirit of Christmas. That is the spirit of Christ. I was still so new in the mission I barely understood anything they were talking about. But I will always remember visiting that impoverished family on Christmas last year. I know tomorrow will be a little different, since we’re going to be having a Christmas party the whole day instead. We didn’t do that last year because Christmas was on Sunday. This year will be different. Party, call home, sleep. But I’ll never forget how I spent Christmas 2011 in Pacasmayo with Elder Despain!

Anyways, I gotta get going I suppose. One interesting thing I did this week while I was cooped up here in the office was that I got to watch a whole ton of different church videos in the corner of my computer screen while I was working on other stuff. One of the more fun ones I got to watch was this TV series that I don’t know if you guys already knew about or not called “The District.” A reality TV show about missionaries! Ha. I don’t know if that’s technically approved viewing material, but considering about 90% of the footage used in the show is also used in missionary training videos that we are allowed to (and supposed to) watch, I figured it was just like an extended edition of the missionary training. Haha. It was fun, and it gives a good glimpse into the life of a missionary. Obviously, a mission in San Diego is very, very different than a mission in Peru, but still, it’s the same idea. It also shows that we’re not perfect. We make mistakes a lot. But that’s okay. God doesn’t expect perfection from His children. He just wants our best effort. If you wanna watch, it was something that I enjoyed. There are a bunch of episodes. Kept me from going too insane working on payments and other things all week:

Anyway, I’ll talk to you tomorrow!! But for now, I’ll leave you with some last journal entries:


Tomorrow the world is going to end. But I don’t know at what time. So, either this is my final journal entry, or the next one is. We’ll see… Why am I even writing in here then???


9:45 PM… I’m still alive…


Well, I suppose the world isn’t ending today. Which is dumb because that means I still have to do monthly payments! Noooooooooo!!!! Aww man…


It’s the day after the end of the world… Not much seems to have changed.


Christmas Eve Eve. Joseph Smith’s birthday. The day after the day after the end of the world.

Xmas Eve tomorrow! XMAS!!!

Okay, bye! Merry Christmas to all! Drink loads of Cranberry Splash!


Elder Hemsley

PS: Free Christmas gifts! Free Bibles and Book of Mormons for everyone!! Wooo!!

Hehe. Derp.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"Bring back the cold bucket showers and leaking roofs if that's what it takes (I sure hope not...), but I want to share the greatest thing I have with these people here in Peru!"

I. Am. So. Tired.

... Wow!!! I am so freaking tired!!!

Today there are transfers. What is this madness? We just had transfers three weeks ago! And we're going to have them again in three weeks! A big group of missionaries got to go home yesterday to spend Christmas with their families, instead of having to wait until January. Means more work for us! I'm so tired!!!

Once again, the office was out of control this week. So many random things all happening at once and a lotta bad luck mixed in. Stuff like me sending 1700 soles electronically to the zone leaders in Guadalupe, but I got one letter of the name I was sending it to wrong, and so they couldn't withdraw the money, and so I had to get online and do all this stuff to figure out how to get the money back, and then I had to go to the bank and talk to some people, and they needed to see my foreign resident card, and so I took it out, but turns out its expired (so I guess I'm currently living in Peru illegally...), so I had to go back to the office and grab my passport (which luckily doesn't expire for another ten years!) and I finally got the money back, and then I had to go send the money again, this time checking my spelling very carefully. Bleh. That was a headache! Then, even worse, on Saturday the zone leaders in Jaén called me to tell me that they lost their cellphone (left it in a taxi), and I'm in charge of lost/stolen cellphones, so that added another big headache to the week. Still trying to figure out how to solve this one actually, since Jaén is real far away and so far I've only had to deal with lost cellphones here in Chiclayo. Yesterday morning another zone leader called me and told me he lost his JPMorgan card that had his zone fund on it and now I have to order him a new card and send his zone fund to his companion. Yesterday seven missionaries went home. Today is the transfer meeting. Gonna be a lot of new zone leaders, which means I'm gonna have to help them all with their zone funds and financial stuff. Working on end-of-year stuff financial-wise. Closing accounts 'n stuff. Working with President and Hermana Risso and their JPMorgan card. We gotta buy some stuff that we've never gotten around to buying yet while we still can since we still have room in the 2012 budget for it. Gotta start worrying about end of month payments in a few days. Christmas is coming. Big ol' huge ol' Christmas party is gonna be here in Chiclayo like we had last year. Should be fun. Gonna be on Christmas day. Except this time since I'm in the office we're gonna have to been worrying about getting everything set up and going out and getting the ten million pounds of food (I'm hoping and praying for McDonald's and pizza...). December has been merciless!! And I still don't know how end of month payments are going to affect my Christmas time, because every month I'm always busy with payments on those days. We'll see what happens. Hectic!! It's safe to say now that I am in fact very ready to get transferred. Obviously there are great things about being here. Air conditioning is probably the greatest of those things. I will miss a lot of things. 24/7 cold and clean drinking water, living with and being with other fun missionaries all the time, getting to work closely with President and Hermana Risso, getting to be a part of a lot of special meetings and conferences 'n stuff, getting to see the missionaries off to their homes and welcoming the new ones to the mission (and eating dinner with them in the mission home!), having to pick stuff up in Real Plaza and grabbing a double quarter pounder with cheese combo (and a sundae!) while I'm there. Yes, I will miss a lot of things, but I'm at the point where I really just want to get out there and start teaching like a normal missionary again. Not having to worry about anything else but the people I'm going to visit. And actually getting to visit people a lot more often. Bring back to the cold bucket showers and leaking roofs if that's what it takes (I sure hope not...), but I want to share the greatest thing I have with these people here in Peru!

But let's see what I was able to get done this week...

First, we did have the family home evening with the Goicochea family. It was nice. Not quite what we were planning though, because we were going to watch a video with them and base our lesson off the video, but when we got there we realized that they don't have a DVD player. This is a fairly common occurrence among families here, but somehow I guess I still haven't adjusted enough to Peruvian culture to not be caught by surprise when it happens. You don't have a DVD player? Why don't you take one of mine? There are like ten at my house!! (Seriously, I was counting them in my head the other day. One at every TV, one in every computer and laptop, my Xbox 360, Jacqueline's portable DVD player, probably one or two in storage... we have like infinity DVD players...) But its not like they're a real poor family. They have their TV, they have their computer and their internet. I just assumed they'd also have a DVD player. Better stop assuming! But anyway I should probably get it in my head to either not base lessons on DVDs, or to always have a good backup plan for any DVD-based lesson plan we have. So, we just kinda had to wing it. It went alright. The other problem was that I wanted to share a scripture with them, and I opened my bible and started reading them the scripture, and as I was reading it I realized it wasn't the scripture I thought it was, and that I actually had no idea where the scripture I wanted to read was located, and so I just kept reading it, and had to warp my teaching around the new verse I read that I didn't actually want to read. Hahaha. Dangit Spanish scriptures! That never would have happened if I was using the good ol' King James version!! But in the end it all turned out well. The family is doing a lot better now. I'm glad we can help them in whatever way possible.

This week was also the monthly zone leaders council, so all the ZLs from the whole mish came down and we had a big ol' party. A party that included sitting in a room and having a big meeting! But it was cool as always. The best part is always President Risso's talk. He gives the coolest talks! Hermana Risso spoke to us too. She said she received two letters from two returned missionaries. One of which was sent home early. She shared with tears in her eyes that that missionary wrote "what I would give to come back to the mission." It was sad. I don't know who the missionary was. She didn't tell us, and I don't know any missionaries who were sent home early (aside from missionaries who had to go home for health problems). But that would be so hard to deal with. I'm glad I'm still here. After the meeting we all went to eat at Norky's, which is probably one of my favorite parts of being in the office, because even though it's just more chicken (as if I didn't get to eat enough chicken here...) it's really good chicken, and my worst enemy, white rice, is replaced with my best friend, french fries! Mmm! I love French foods. However, I felt really sick after eating there. I just can't win with food here. If it tastes good, I will get sick. If it tastes bad... I will get sick.

Elder Meza and Elder Andersen, who were the Zone Leaders in Cajamarca, totally surprised me by bringing me a present! They brought me a beautiful can of Mountain Dew CODE RED!! Yes, they are awesome. Yes, it was delicious... sooooo delicious. And it didn't make me sick. It raised my HP by like 30 points. Filled my hearts. Slapped a few body armors on me. It was the best.

This week with the little teaching time we had, we got to start breakin' out the Christmas lessons!! I was kinda stoked to stop sharing the normal stuff and to start sharing some nice Christmas messages. A fun change of pace. One of those visits was with Piter and his little brother and his grandma. This time I wanted to mix things up and instead of sharing the standard bible Luke Christmas story, we took the Book of Mormon route and shared the story of Samuel the Lamanite and his prophesies of the birth of Christ. Piter already knew the story. Haha. Duh! He has a super-human memory. We read about all of the signs that were going to precede Christ's birth, and then Elder Perea took us ahead to 3 Nephi 1 where the unbelievers had grown so wicked that they were going to kill the believers if the signs didn't come to pass. Nephi cried unto the Lord for an entire day for his people, and the voice of the Lord spoke to him in verse 13, saying "Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I unto the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfill all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets." Piter read that verse, and then his grandma commented on it. She reread the first part that says "Lift up your head and be of good cheer" and told us how much she loves those words from the Savior. She paused for a second, and then started to cry, telling us about the struggles she's had to face in her lifetime. The fact that she has to play the role of the father, not only for her children, but for her grandchildren too because they don't live with their father either. She said she had read that verse many times before, but it had never impacted her so much as it did this time. Something happened as Piter read those words that brought her so much comfort. She said she was so thankful for the gospel, and that she has an unshakable testimony of its truthfulness, and that it has, and continues to help her through all the hard moments in life. With tears in her eyes she said "sometimes I ask, why couldn't I have found this gospel sooner? Why couldn't I have found it earlier in my life, so that my children could have grown up with the gospel in their lives? Thing would have been better." She went on to say that although she has those questions, she trusts God and knows that He has a plan for her, and for her family. Then she said "my greatest joy will be to see my grandchildren serve missions," as she looked over at Piter and his little brother Samuel. The Spirit just overcame her in that moment and it was felt strongly in their home. I shared about how although we don't always think the way that God thinks, and we don't always understand His plan, we know that He has promised that there will come a day when everyone who has ever lived will come to know of the truthfulness of the gospel, and although we don't know when that day is, we know it will come. And although we know that everyone will know the gospel one day, we're here as missionaries to help as many people as we can discover it as soon as possible. The sooner, the better, so that when that day finally does come, there will be less people asking, with tears in their eyes "why couldn't I have found this gospel sooner?" That's why I'm here. That's why I came. Everyone will come to know the gospel one day, but the sooner they do, the sooner they start receiving the blessings that come from it. The sooner they start progressing with an eternal perspective. The sooner they feel the indescribable comfort of knowing what we know. When that great days comes, when everyone knows, and millions of people are looking back with tears in their eyes asking "why couldn't I have found the gospel sooner?," my goal is to be standing there surrounded by people I've met throughout my life who will say to me "Thank you for teaching me these things when you did." That's why I'm here. That was a cool experience for me.

On Sunday we decided to go visit an old man from the ward. I wrote about him before. He can't see or walk very well. He's really sweet and really funny. And he loves to talk our ears off. Visits with him are not lessons. We visit, he talks, and talks, and talks, and then eventually we leave. Haha. But he's always so happy whenever the missionaries come over. He's so happy to have some company for a moment, because he lives alone in a really, really tiny room in an apartment building. Anyway, this time when we showed up, there was this lady there. I didn't really catch who she was, but I think it was his ex-wife. But I don't know. Anyway, she also loved to talk, even more that he did, and she talked non-stop for like an hour, telling us all kinds of unimportant stories and just the most random things in the world, and then at one point her eyes just filled with tears and started talking about how great it is what we do as missionaries, telling us "you're bringing salvation to homes." Little moments like that are really special to me. They make me feel like I'm doing a good thing. Even if I don't get to teach as much as I used to.

Also on Sunday, at church when Sunday school was about to start, this lady came up to us and asked Elder Samamé and I to give the Sunday school lesson because the teacher wasn't there. Literally at the very last second. Whoa whoa whoa, wait just a darn second! This isn't like asking to to give an impromptu talk, which I've done before, and it's not that bad. But with the Sunday school lesson it's not just something we can come up with on the spot. We have to follow the program and teach and explain the specific chapters that are assigned to the class. You need to prepare for this kind of thing! This time it was Ether chapters 7-15 or something like that. And let me tell you, that I had (and still have) no idea what those chapters were about. Yes, I've read them before. No, I haven't memorized the entire Book of Mormon. Elder Samamé and I were put on the spot and we were totally lost. So, we did the only thing we knew how to do; Took the one scripture from those chapters that we were familiar with, Ether 12:6, and base the entire lesson around that. "And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith." Turned out fairly well I guess. Just basically taught a lesson about faith. Still have no idea what was happening in chapters 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, or 15. Hehe.

Yesterday we had to say goodbye to seven missionaries who finished their missions. It was a stupidly busy day. Which is why I didn't e-mail you guys yesterday. I had (and still have!) so much to do!! The office was so ridiculously full of people yesterday! Like a million missionaries came to say their goodbyes. It made getting anything done next to impossible. At least I had my financial interview with all who were going home without any problems. Although I've had to see three or four groups of missionaries off to their homes now, I think this time was the saddest, because almost everyone who left this time was a good friend of mine. Elder Meza, Elder Bohman, Hermana Melendez, Hermana Rocha, Elder Montes, Elder (Victor!) Zepeda, and Hermana Machuca. Of all of them, the only one I didn't know from before was Hermana Machuca, but all the rest were my friends, and I'm gonna miss them all a lot. Elder Meza was my zone leader in the Guadalupe zone, and all the other elders were zone leaders that I've gotten to know since I've been here in the office. Hermana Rocha and Hermana Melendez were also in Guadalupe with me and they're both awesome. I even baptized one of Hermana Rocha's investigators in San Pedro de Lloc! Elder Bohman is the only North American who went home today. He's super rad! He's from Alaska, and his parents didn't even know that he was coming home. Hahahaha. He only told his brother I think. I can't imagine that turning out too well, but it sure is funny! His family wasn't expecting him until after Christmas. LOLOL. He's starting at BYU-I in January, so I'll get to see him again at least! I really am pretty bummed about this group leaving. I'm gonna miss them all.

Since seven missionaries went home yesterday, and no new missionaries are arriving until January, that means a bunch of transfers were necessary today. Elder Hatch got transferred to Cajamarca. His first time in his entire mission outside of Chiclayo!! He's going home in two months and the entire time he's been here he's been in Chiclayo. The furthest he ever got was like 20 minutes away. Haha. So he definitely deserves this transfer. Cajamarca is the zone that every missionary here wants to go to. Maybe someday I'll get to! Got to say goodbye to him this morning, because I'm literally not going to have another chance to see him again before he goes home. Gonna miss that guy a ton! Although visits to Provo seem to be a common occurrence in the life of Victor Paul Hemsley, so I assume I'll bump into him again back in the good ol' USA. I can't believe how fast time has gone. I feel like Elder Hatch and I just barely started here in the office! But it's been five months already! Too crazy. Elder Hatch has probably always been the best example to me of how a good missionary should be. He's the best. I hope some of his good influence rubbed off on me! Gonna miss him. Elder Insaurralde is the new assistant. He's from Paraguay! He's really awesome too. I've known him for a while now. Except now this means that I'm the only gringo in the office. All calls to the United States are now by default going to be my problem. And that is a problem, because there's little I hate more in the office than trying to speak English with someone over the phone. It. is. So. Freaking. Difficult. But I'm excited to have Elder Insaurralde here. He's great.

Wow I still can't believe how many girls back home are getting ready to serve missions! That's seriously the coolest thing in the world to me!! I'm so stoked for all of them! I can't think of anything better for someone my age to do than this. Seriously, can't think of nuthin'! Last night as I was in bed just staring out the window before going to sleep I just started thinking about how thankful I am that I'm out here, seemingly against all odds. I would be lying if I said that I have zero friends who are members of the Church who are currently serving missions, because, honestly, I have a ton of missionary friends right now. But of all my best and closest friends, not a single one of them (who had the chance) decided to serve a mission. I'm the only one out of my whole circle of friends who made the choice to do this. And thinking about it, I don't even know how that happened. Why, out of all of them, am I the only one out here? It wasn't so much "why didn't they serve too?," but it was more of a "why did I decide to serve?!" Why didn't I make the same choice as them? It seems like I've just watched person after person in or around my age group stop going to church and stop living gospel standards, but somehow I didn't. And honestly, I don't understand why. I really, truly, don't understand how I made it to this point. I was thinking about that, and it just brought me to tears, and I just started thanking my Heavenly Father so much that I was here. And I'll tell you, it takes a lot to bring me to tears. Basically, it takes the death of a loved one. Other than that, these eyes stay dry 99.97% of the time. But it seriously just brought me to tears because I was, and am so thankful that somehow I made it on a mission. I even remember threatening my Mom at multiple points that all the dumb church activities that I never wanted to go to were going to drive me into inactivity. I never really meant that. That was a lie I said when I was angry and trying to prove how much I disliked Boy Scouts. I never would have stopped going to church (on Sunday...) for something like that. I always had a testimony of the church, but I didn't enjoy anything about it except Sunday meetings. Which, honestly, I didn't enjoy either for most of my life. How is it that I, who would say things like that, and who is surrounded by so many people who not only say it, but actually do it, and leave the church-- How is it that I made it here? Knowing myself, it doesn't make sense to me. I consider being here just the most amazing blessing that I probably don't deserve. Like it was a blessing that was meant for someone else but somehow I intercepted it. As much as I claimed (well, actually, I was serious) that I didn't like church activities and things like that, at the same time, my testimony of this gospel was always my most cherished possession. I've said it before over and over again in other e-mails about how my testimony of the gospel has brought me the most amazing and indescribable sense of comfort and hope in the hardest moments and worst situations in my life. And even in the good moments, it just helps knowing that something so much better is promised to me if I stay strong and follow my Savior. I've said it before that I feel like me being "me", and me believing in this Church and having this testimony, are two contradictory things.  When I think about my favorite things, the things that come to mind are things like music, or video games, or Double Western Bacon Cheeseburgers, and nothing church or gospel related will probably even cross my mind, but my true favorite things are the blessings I have received and continue to receive from this gospel. It gives my life purpose in what would be an otherwise pointless existence. There is nothing better, and nothing can make me happier. I feel like the luckiest person in the entire world.

I'm glad to know that I played a part in getting you guys to taste the delicious flavors of Cranberry Splash again this year. Oh how I miss me a good glass of C-berry S! And Jacqueline made me jealous talking about delicious Almond Rocas and Crunchwrap Supremes. And obviously Sam always makes me jealous of delicious foods. Basically all of his letters to me are like "and today we ate the best food it the world! It was sooooooooo good! You're missing out on everything good!" while I'm sitting here eating a plate of rice. Sam did have a good idea though in his last letter. We can totally move to LA when I get home! For sure! That seems reasonable to me. So, when I get home, Sam and I are gonna move to LA. Just so you know. His idea. I'm only supporting it.

I miss you a lot!! Christmas is comin' up in a short week! I can't even believe it! I still don't know exactly when I'll get to talk to you (well, it will be the 25th... but I don't know the hour) but I guess that's another benefit of the office: I can e-mail you at any moment to let you know! I'm not too thrilled about Christmas this year. Pretty stoked for Xmas2013! No, I still haven't opened your packages. Should I have? I guess at this point I might as well just wait until Christmas, right? Eh, we'll see. I might open them this week.

Alright, I gotta go. I'll talk to you (literally!) soon!

-Elder Hemsley

Victor sent a ton of new pictures.  You can see them by clicking on the slideshow at the top of this blog.  Here are some of our favorites:
"This is where I live."

(Yes, Victor is still as goofy as ever...)

"Takin' a stroll through the grocery store..."

"Christmas came early this year!"

Thursday, December 13, 2012

"Yesterday I made more of an effort to pay attention to and recognize the Spirit, and I had some neat experiences. Nothing big, but little things and impressions that I was thankful for."

Yo wuddup?!!?

Oh, y'know, just sittin´here in the office, writing an e-mail. You?

Oh. Kewl. Let's hang out soon. Lol okay brb.

Well... This week has been eventful. Still fairly stressful. The whole month of December looks like its going to be sort of annoying office-wise, but shouldn't be too bad I hope. I just don't know how end of month (and end of year!) payments are going to affect my Christmas. That would be a bummer. This week was full of ups and downs. But, real high ups, and really, really low downs. Uhh, I guess I'll start with the lows and get them out of the way. This is real awful...

This week a sister from our ward, Hermana Huansi passed away. I met her within my first days here and she's always been one of the nicest members to us missionaries. One of the only members who actually wanted us to come over for lunch, instead of just having us over by obligation basically. She was always inviting us over and loved visiting with us and helping us and teaching with us and she basically treated us like a part of her family. She has four sons. Three of whom have served missions. The last one just returned from his mission less than a month ago. She died really, really suddenly on Tuesday. The other elders we live with even saw and talked to her on Tuesday morning, totally normal, walking down the street. Then that afternoon Elder Samamé got a call from Hermana Yataco. I just remember Elder Samamé saying "are you serious?! We just saw her this morning!!" and at that point a million ideas flew through my mind of what might have been going on. What sister missionaries had I seen in the morning that might have gotten in an accident?? Then Elder Samamé put the phone down and told us "Hermana Huansi is dead." None of us could believe it. I had just seen and spoken with her at church on Sunday. We went right over to go see the family. By that point they were already in the chapel getting the open-casket ready. I walked inside and I saw three of her sons there and it just killed me to see them so sad. Especially the one who just got back from his mission, José Martin. It was the worst. The other brother and their dad didn't even know what had happened yet. We went with them back to their home where they were waiting for their brother and father to get there. The four of us missionaries waited in the living room, and the brothers went into the room next door, which was separated from the living room by just a couple of plywood boards. We just waited. If you want to have an awfully sad experience, I recommend witnessing someone be told by his brothers that his mom just died. In the other room we didn't see anything, but we heard it all. It was the saddest thing in the world. So much crying. I felt so bad, and I was just overcome by this huge desire to help this family in any way that I possibly could. Although there wasn't much we could do. If just us being there helped them feel better in some way, then I guess I was doing exactly what I should have been doing. There we waited a really long time. Eventually Elder Cabrera and I went into the other room for a minute to do what we could to comfort them. Reassuring them that we'd be there to help with anything we can. Then we went back out to the other room and waited some more for their dad to arrive. Their dad works in Cajamarca which is hours away from Chiclayo. I guess they told him that he needed to come home immediately but they didn't tell him what had happened. When he showed up, it was a replay of what had happened earlier. A father being told by his sons that his wife was dead. It was awful. Never in a million years would I have ever expected to be present for something like this in my mission, or ever. There was so much crying. What killed me most was that José Martin was beating himself up about it. I think he was the only one at home when his mom died and he somehow felt responsible for it. That was the saddest thing. My heart aches so much for that family. The Goicochea family. I still can't even believe what happened. Hermana Huansi always treated us like angels, and saw us as angels too. She was one of the most amazing people I have met on my mission. I must have had lunch like six times at her house (and her food was actually good and didn't make me sick!) and visited her and talked with her many other times. That night was really hard. All I wanted to do was help. But I didn't know what to do. There's not much you can do in a situation like that. But it just sort of makes you feel helpless. Aren't the missionaries supposed to save the day? Aren't the missionaries real-life super heroes? I wanted to do so much more, but all I could do was be there. There was nothing we could do about it and no way to fix it. All we could do was be there for the family. So sad...

Yesterday at church the family was all there. They looked calm. José Martin even smiled and laughed and that made me super happy. He's the new elder's quorum president and he taught his normal priesthood lesson like any other Sunday, and was organizing activities for the quorum and everything. What a champ. I think having the gospel in your life makes a horrible experience like this about a thousand times more bearable. It doesn't take away the pain or the sadness by any means, but it gives you hope and comfort in an otherwise hopeless situation. I don't know what I would do without this gospel. I think I would have given up a long time ago if it weren't for the faith and the testimony I have in my Heavenly Father's plan and my Savior Jesus Christ. The gospel is what gives me the strength to move on when it feels like all hope is lost. This gospel is the single most important thing to me that I have in this life. Some people seem to get along fine without Christ in their lives. But I wouldn't be able to. I owe everything I have to this gospel. It is the greatest gift that my Heavenly Father, and my parents, have ever, and could ever give me. I am forever thankful to have been blessed with what I have. I know the gospel strengthened this family in this horrible situation. They're still terribly sad, and their lives will never be the same, but they have hope, and they have a knowledge that they will see their mother again, and they will be able to be with her forever. Tonight we are going to have a family home evening with them. Hermana Huansi's non-member relatives are visiting and the father asked us to come over and share a message with them. I'm sure it will be sad, but that overwhelming desire I felt to help this family hasn't gone away, and I'm very thankful for this opportunity to be able to be with them and do what little I can to help them through this.

Anyway... let's get on to the more positive experiences of the week...

For one, on Wednesday we had a multi-zone conference with Elder Camargo, a new area seventy from Columbia. And it was so good!! President and Hermana Risso spoke, and as always their talks were awesome. And then Elder Camargo's wife Claudia spoke, and it was also awesome, and then at last Elder Camargo spoke to us. He was really funny! He was making a lot of jokes and interacting with the missionaries and making fun of them and stuff (lovingly... haha). And apparently he shared a different message at every multi-zone conference. But at ours one of the things that really stuck out to me was when he had us open to a scripture that I've read or heard about a million times, but he helped me to understand it in a way I had never thought about too much before. The scripture was Moroni 8:25, which says: "And the first fruits of repentance is baptism; and baptism cometh by faith unto the fulfilling the commandments; and the fulfilling the commandments bringeth remission of sins." I had never really put too much thought into that verse before. I had heard it a million times, and I was familiar with it, but I never paid much attention to what it was really saying about how "the first fruits of repentance in baptism." Elder Camargo told us that it means that when we truly repent, we will want to be baptized. And that means that if we have investigators who say they have repented, but they still don't want to be baptized, then that means that they haven't fully, or truly repented. Interesting. But it makes sense. If baptism is for the "remission of sins," why wouldn't someone want that if they're really serious about repenting and being forgiven and cleansed of sin? Had never thought about it like that before. My other favorite part was another scripture that he had us read. Another well-known one, about the doctrine of Christ. In 3 Nephi 27, verses 21 and 22, which are the words of the Savior speaking to His disciples: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do; Therefore, if ye do these things blessed are ye, for ye shall be lifted up at the last day." Elder Camargo highlighted an interesting point in these two verses. Christ is telling His disciples "this is my gospel," and that essentially it is to emulate Christ and live as He lived and to do what He would do. But he pointed out something that I really liked. He asked us to count how many times Christ uses the word "do". How often the verb "to do" is used in these two versus. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do; Therefore, if ye do these things blessed are ye, for ye shall be lifted up at the last day." The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of action. We can't sit around and say we believe in God and in Christ but do nothing about it. We have to act. We have to do. Because "faith, if it hath not works, is dead" (James 2:17). We have to make a constant effort to emulate the Savior. We won't be perfect, but that's why we have a Savior in the first place. "For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do" (2 Nephi 25:23). Elder Camargo shared a lot of other things with us, but those were the main points that stuck out to me. It was a fun conference.

I had been praying to have some more spiritual experiences, or at least to be able to recognize the Spirit more in my life, because I feel like I haven't been having those kinds of experiences as frequently as I used to being cooped up here in the office so much. So, yesterday I made more of an effort to pay attention to and recognize the Spirit, and I had some neat experiences. Nothing big, but little things and impressions that I was thankful for. First, in the morning we went to visit this less-active family to try to get them to come to church with us. Two parents and a 19 or 20 year old son. I wasn't too happy with the approach my companion was taking to get them to come to church. It was kind of forceful and sorta like "we're right, you're wrong, you're disobeying God by not coming with us." Uh, not my style. So I stepped in and just started testifying of the blessings they can receive by coming to church, and partaking of the sacrament, and renewing their baptismal covenants, and as I was speaking I felt the Spirit in a way that I haven't felt much this past week. It actually made me smile as I was speaking and feeling that way. In the end, only the son came with us, but it was rad because he's always way awesome and could totally be a missionary soon.

Then, in sacrament meeting, one of the speakers was a recent convert who was baptized about three months ago by Elder Samamé. Her name is Heysa (once again I have no idea how to actually spell her name) and she's 17 or 18. She is really, really, really awesome!! You would never know that she's only been a member of the church for three months! She's a councilor in the primary presidency. This was her first talk in sacrament meeting, and it was soo good!! One of the best talks I've heard on my mission probably! She used quotes from President Packer, and from Joseph Smith, and she used scriptures from Doctrine and Covenants, and the Book of Mormon, and she mentioned a lot of things beyond just the basic stuff that recent converts know, like about eternal families and seeking an eternal companion. One thing that she said really hit me hard. She was talking about God and she said "He trusts us completely." Something about that really got to me and as she said it I felt the Spirit confirm to me that was she was saying was the truth. That was a cool experience for me, and it was the main thing I took away from church yesterday. Heysa finished with an awesome testimony. Her talk basically blew me away! This girl needs to be a missionary!!

Later that day, we were walking down the sidewalk, on our way to see if we could visit a member, and then randomly this one guy comes up to us and says "Elders, can you come with me and give me a blessing?" He had taken a pretty nasty fall down a stairwell and his side was pretty beat up. We said sure and followed him to a house to give him the blessing. As we were walking he told us that he is a returned missionary who served in Trujillo, but that he hasn't been very active lately. I've met a stupidly high amount of inactive RMs here!! But anyway, we went inside and found a room where I was able to give him the blessing in there with his non-member girlfriend and some Catholic preacher also in the room. We then got to talk with them and some other family members for a bit. It was a good experience, and I was glad to have been able to do that.

Some other totally random things that happened this week include me eating Trix cereal for the first time in over a year!! Soo good! Except, I don't like the milk here, so I just ate the cereal plain. But the Trix here is still in the little fruit shapes instead of the dumb colored circles that it changed to in the United States. Why did that even change?! And why did it only change in the United States?! What gives?!!?!?! I WANT MY TRIX TO HAVE COOL SHAPES DANGIT. So yeah, I ate fruit-shaped Trix. Be jealous. Another thing that made me happy this week was one night while we were walking to an appointment we walked past a tree that had Christmas lights on it. That is a really rare sight here, and it really grabbed my attention. Made me actually feel for a second like it was actually Christmas time. Literally, for a second. And another thing I thought was funny was the other day when the church put a new website online. Elder Hatch read me the URL: "mormonsandgays.org" and it made me LOL. I thought it was a joke or an anti-mormon website or something, but it's legit. It’s actually pretty cool too.

Hmm, well, that was my week in a nutshell. Another week of being in the office a ton! Oh yeah, those missing 2000 dollars did eventually show up. It just took a lot longer than normal to get here. Annoying. I will be sort of refreshed to leave the office whenever that happens (most likely in January). But at the same time I'll miss it. However, I don't expect to get sent to anywhere cool after this. I'm almost 100% sure that I'm going to stay in Chiclayo, so that I can stay close by to help the new financial secretary. Elder Karl stayed close for that same reason. And I used his help literally until past the very last second (even after he was already supposed to be home (he got stuck in Chiclayo an extra day) I was still asking him for help. Haha)! But hopefully one or two transfers in the future I can go somewhere other than Chiclayo.

P.S.: Piter was my second confirmation, not the first. Maria was the first person I ever confirmed as a member of the church.

I have no idea what kinds of movies are coming out these days. President Lincoln movie?? Sounds cool to me. Would have liked to have gone. And Bryn's applying for schools?!?!!? What the heck?!?! How is that even possible??? Too weird.

Dad, I thought it was cool what you told me about Handel's Messiah and the experience he had when he finished writing the Hallelujah Chorus. Cool stuff. I like those kinds of stories. God didn't forget about us during the "dark ages" or the Great Apostasy. He was always there and always will be.

Anyway, I've taken way too long writing you guys this week. Haha. I gotta go right now! Thanks for keeping me updated on real life. I hope you enjoy my fake-life updates. Because seriously I still can't believe this is real life. It's fake.


-Elder Hems 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

"Well, I feel like I'm making it a weekly tradition of saying this, but I just have to say it again: This week was the busiest week ever!!!!! And the most stressful."


I was just thinking about how I missed you guys.

Well, I feel like I'm making it a weekly tradition of saying this, but I just have to say it again: This week was the busiest week ever!!!!! And the most stressful. Oh boy, was I stressed this week. Lots of office. Minimal missionary work. And when I say "minimal" I mean it was the least productive week missionary work wise of my entire mission by far. Record lows in every category! Hmm, let's just turn to my journal for a minute to get a glimpse of my week:

Wow! Really busy day!! It’s like midnight so I don’t wanna write much, but today was hectic. Elder Karl and Elder Allred were supposed to go home today, but due to a mix-up with their passports, they have to stick around till tomorrow. Kinda lame for them.

Well, tomorrow’s gonna be nuts too. I’m gonna go to bed.

Wow! Really busy day!! Again!!! Transfers. Monthly payments. Other stuff. So glad that monthly pay and transfers are now officially over! Until missionaries go to withdraw their money and start calling me about all the problems they’re having. Bleh.

Apart from the transfer meeting, spent the day in the office getting payments ready. I haven’t proselyted in so long!!! Tomorrow looks busy too. I need a rest!

It’s ridiculous how tired I am. I've never felt this worn out in the mission before. But it’s not so much of a physical tiredness as a mental one. Today was another day of pure office. I am totally overwhelmed with the amount of things that somehow got piled on me all at the same time. My brain is shot. I desperately need a rest. I need a break. We’re talking about taking a half P-day on Saturday to make up for the P-day we never had on Monday, but I don’t know if I can make it ‘til Saturday, because I’m beat. I feel like I won’t be able to be a good missionary until I make up for my loss of sleep and give my mind and body a moment to rest and not have to worry about anything…

Bah. I’m upset with how unorganized I've been these past few days, and how much I've been in the office. I really don’t feel very much like a missionary right now. I need to get out and teach tomorrow. I have to teach.

Well, today we finally taught some lessons. Three. So, that felt good.

Today was sort of weird. Supposedly it was P-day, because we didn't have P-day on Monday so we switched it to today. However, apparently to Elder Perea “P-day” means work just as hard, if not harder, than usual in the office, taking me to a million places to do his office chores that weren't even urgent, completely canceling out our P-day and making it just another boring work-filled day at the office. Yeah, so much for that rest I've been waiting all week to get. 

Today was nice because we got to proselyte a little more and watched the Christmas devotional. In Spanish though. Gotta re-watch it in English.

Anyway, that's sort of what my week went like. Without a lot of the boring details. I am very glad that last week is over.

That's seriously all that happened this week, so... bye!

Err, I guess I can think of some other things to tell you about too...

Well, for one, that Christmas devotional. I enjoyed it sort of. I just can't really enjoy it very much if it’s not in English. I'm just watching President Eyring speak and I can tell by his expression and the little bit of his real voice that leaks in between the breaks in the Spanish voice, that he's getting really emotional, but the dumb Spanish voice is just speaking without any emotion whatsoever and I'm just like "oh, come on!! This is such a rip-off!!" Haha. Seriously, I don't enjoy the translated conferences. But I've gone over that before and don't need to explain it again. I'll watch it again in English if I find any free moments this week. Benefits of 24/7 internet access. Why do I even have 24/7 internet access?? I'm a missionary! I'm supposed to have only 1/1 internet access. I feel like this is one super gigantic temptation that's sitting right in front of me every day.

Really, my favorite part of a week full of very few teaching experiences happened yesterday. Yesterday was one of the few days that we got to go out and do a good amount of proselyting. At one point all of our appointments had fallen through and we didn't really have anywhere to go, but I remembered this one old man that we met a few weeks ago who's a member of the church and I thought it'd be nice to stop by and give him a visit. We went to his apartment and knocked on his window. Eventually he came out. He's very old and fragile and he can barely see anymore. He walked right up to us and couldn't recognize who we were, until I said "good afternoon" at which point he stopped for a moment and was like "... los élderes?" and his face just lit up and he was so happy that the elders decided to come visit him! That moment was my favorite part of the week. Just that happy expression on his face made me feel like I was really doing something good.

Yesterday was also fast Sunday. Piter got up and shared his testimony with the congregation for the third time! Haha. He's always nervous too, but for some reason he still always wants to do it. Because he's so awesome! Testimony meeting was pretty great this time, if I do say so myself. It was a nice spiritual recharge after a non-spiritual week.

We also announced at church that we're now only going to eat lunch with members on Saturdays and not on Sundays. Because Sundays are like our only days to be able to go out and teach without having to worry about being in the office and we always spend so long in the members homes that it really kills our teaching time. Mostly because we show up, and instead of having everything all ready, they start cooking when we get there, and then we have to wait for them to cook the food, and then eat it, and talk, and it just takes a real long time. But honestly, the main reason for the change is my health. I wanted to cut members lunches all together, but we settled with eating only once a week instead of twice. Now I will get sick only once a week instead of twice. :)

This week I got double mail! Because I got zero mail last week. So that was fun. Double letters from home. Double Porter updates. I forgot that it was even Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving was always so fun for me before. To me, Thanksgiving and video games and soda go hand in hand in hand. And cousins. However I'm hearing crazy rumors that Thanksgiving break isn't even a thing anymore at Ricks College which is a huge bummer. Wait, I'm not even actually on Fall term, am I? Whatever. But it sounds like you had a fun time. Thanksgiving is the best. But I liked what Mom told me: "I know that you won't be celebrating Thanksgiving there, but if I recall you don't even like Thanksgiving because you don't even like Turkey, stuffing, etc. You'd prefer to just have hamburgers, isn't that right?"... Yes. That is right. Well, the hamburgers part is right. Not the I "don't even like Thanksgiving" part. But you're totally right. If it were up to me, on Thanksgiving we'd eat cheeseburgers and pizza, and drink a ton of Voltage. No, wait... Sierra Mist Cranberry Splash. OH MY GOSH I TOTALLY FORGOT ABOUT CRANBERRY SPLASH I NEED SOME SO BADLY RIGHT NOW. Cranberry Splash is one of the best holiday traditions there is!

Anyway, Dad told me about speaking in the singles ward and it made me jealous because I never even noticed how much more reverent the singles ward is than any other ward. No babies screaming. No rowdy kids. That's something I never even appreciated about the singles ward until I read your letter. Now I miss it a ton. I'd kill to have a reverent meeting here. I'd kill a large giraffe.

Tons of people I know are getting mission calls! And they're all girls!! That's the coolest thing ever!! I'm so happy that more people are going to experience the blessings of serving a mission. Thanks for keeping me updated on the random "I got my mission call!" Facebook updates that you happen to see whenever you use my Facebook. Haha. Keep updating me! (Speaking of Facebook, I remember right about when I was leaving for my mission that Google+ was just starting out, and since Google usually dominates everything I assumed it might get a lot bigger than Facebook eventually. Did that ever happen? I thought Google+ was kind of stupid. And then I made an account anyway to try to video chat with Mark Hoppus.)

I got the Christmas packages too! I don't remember if I told you that last week. I haven't opened them though. I don't really know why, since you told me everything inside is wrapped. I'll probably open them sometime soon.

Jacqueline, normally I should be sleeping from 10:30 until 6:30 every night. So... eight hours of sleep. Lots of nights I get less though. Nine hours would be nice.

Sam, the reason you couldn't find my Halo games is because I brought them with me and I play them every night with the other missionaries!!... Just kidding. The real reason is because I don't own and Halo games. For realz. The only Xbox games I ever bought were Star Wars games and Resident Evil. I don't own Halo. And my alien game for Wii doesn't suck!! Speaking of Wii, is the new Wii out yet? Speaking of Wii again, do you have the new Zelda yet which isn't even new anymore?

Keegan! I got your letter! Well, not your physical letter. Only the Dear Elder. I am seriously mega bummed that some Peruvian banditos got away with stealing such a precious piece of mail, and such an important part of T-Rex Planet history. Maybe there is still hope that it will get here... probably not. Really lame. It got me wondering how many other letters people have sent me that never arrived... Anyway I'll try to find time to actually write you back, just wanted to let you know that I did (and didn't) get your mail, because who knows when the heck I'll ever be able to write.

Well... there is just not a lot of stuff to tell you about my week this week. It was busy and stressful. Hoping for a better week this week. We're gonna have multi-zone conferences with a seventy (I can't remember who), so that's gonna be fun!

I hope you're enjoying your precious few weeks left before the end of the world! What a rip-off, there isn't even going to be Christmas this year. :(

Talk to you next week! Bye!

-Elder Hemsley

Oh wait! I almost forgot to tell you one more thing I did this week! This is super ridiculous. This morning as a zone we all went paintballing! For realz! That is something I never expected to do as a missionary. But Prez Risso gave us permission so it's all good. That was fun! Basically my first real P-day activity I've had in a long time!! I think I killed a guy! Hahaha. Okay, bye for real!

Victor sent a bunch of new pictures that you can see by clicking on the slideshow at the top of this blog.  Here are just a few of them:
"Piter's baptism!"

"The zone."

"Hey, I'm a missionary."