Monday, February 27, 2012


Hey there!

Oh y'know, just hangin' out in Peru, doing missionary work. Don't really have a whole lot of cool stuff to tell you about this week either. Sorry! I said I'd have good stuff to talk about, but yeah no. But we did get water this week!!! After living for three months without running water, I finally got it back. I get to shower for real now. The shower isn't that great, but they're never gonna be while I'm on my mission. I remember the day I checked into the MTC, I woke up at the Balkman's house, and got ready to go and got in the shower, and as I was getting in I specifically remember thinking that that was probably the last good shower I was going to have for the next two years of my life. Yeah, so far that's been true. BUT I HAVE RUNNING WATER!!!

Anyway, we do have the coolest investigator ever. The guy who I said accepted a date after I heard that blink-182 song. Haha. His baptism is this Saturday! I'm way stoked for it! His name is Juan, and he's the kind of investigator I've always wished I could teach. He came to us asking us to visit him because he had been listening to the missionaries in Lima and wanted to continue learning more. He told us the first time we visited him that he's for sure going to get baptized, he just doesn't know when he'll feel ready. He's read the entire Book of Mormon cover to cover. He understands everything we share with him. He actually reads what we leave him to read (it's rare for someone to keep a commitment here...) and he has good questions and is progressing super fast and he's basically the coolest ever. And every time we go to visit him he has drinks and snacks prepared for us. Haha. He's seriously the best. I'm so glad we've had to chance to get to know him and help get him ready for his baptism.

There is another lady we're teaching too who's way cool. I think I've mentioned her before. She's the one who had all those dreams, like her dream about getting baptized, her dream about the sacrament (which she has still never seen). One day we decided to stop by her house and she told us "oh, I had a dream that you two were going to come visit me today. Come in!" She's still having crazy cool dreams all the time. These days her dreams are all way similar to Lehi's dream of the Tree of Life in 1 Nephi. I can't believe it. Anyway she had such a huge desire to change her life and she wants to get baptized but she won't accept a baptismal date yet. She also won't come to church. She always wants to, but somehow every week something happens and she can never make it. It's a little sad because she's getting so much communication from Heavenly Father through her dreams and she just doesn't quite get it... I dunno. She's way cool though and we can always feel the Spirit way strong when we visit her. It helps me teach so much better. Seriously there's like a night and day difference between the visits where the Spirit is there and the ones where it isn't. When the Spirit is there I am so much more comfortable and I can talk and say all kinds of stuff and the language is no longer a problem and I really feel like I'm able to help the people. When the Spirit isn't there it's like going back to day one at the MTC. Like "Uh, sorry, I no speak-o Mexicano..." That's the language I'm learning, right? Mexican? Well why doesn't the food taste Mexican! (Foods I miss most, in order: 1, good cheeseburgers, 2, pizza, 3, Mexican food.)

Anyway this branch is a little frustrating at times. We don't have a whole lot of good investigators, and it's rare to have someone actually come to church. But last week we had an investigator at church (Juan) and after Sacrament this old crazy member came up to him and started talking, and I thought it was cool that he's talking with the members and stuff, and then I learn that the old guy is just giving him all kinds of crap for taking the sacrament when he's not a member and that he's not allowed to do that and that he can never do it again. Seriously? We barely have investigators who come to church, and then when one actually does, the members just make him feel like crap about it. Good job Pacasmayo! Anyway just for the record the old guy is wrong and non-members can take the sacrament. I always knew that. I specifically told my friends at my farewell that they could take it if they wanted. People here have weird ideas about the church and are super judgmental of others and prideful. Pride really is the biggest problem here. Which came as kind of a shock to me.

Yesterday Elder Choc and I had to speak in church again. Of course I didn't want to prepare a talk so I took those scriptures about love I shared with you a few weeks back and used them as an outline and spoke about love. Went pretty well. Elder Choc spoke about obedience, and then the last speaker spoke on paying tithing.

Hmm... Well I'm still practicing the quena. It's hard to play! Basically, it has three octaves. The lowest octave I can pretty much play fairly easily. The second octave has all the exact same fingerings as the first, but you have to blow harder into the flute to play them, and it's hard to get it to sound good at all. The third and highest octave is totally different and I have no idea how to play it. But it's fun though. I love to mess around with it. The first song I started learning was A Decade Under the Influence by Taking Back Sunday. Hahaha. I'm sort of trying to learn some hymns though. Not really.

My hair's getting kinda long. The problem with my hair is that if it's not long(ish) it's impossible to take care of, so I have to grow it out a little longer than I'd like to be able to keep it under control. I bought some gel the other day and it seems to be helping. Except I have always disliked using gel, because I do not enjoy having... crusty hair. It feels so gross. But now that I have it I might get my hair chopped a little shorter and see if I can keep it nice-ish. And then when I get home I'm going Qui-Gon Jinn with my hair and beard!

Oh yeah, one other cool thing about the week was that we had a multi-zone conference in Chiclayo on Thursday. That was fun! The conference was way good. Prez Risso gave a way sick talk on the Book of Mormon and I just wish I was better at this language because I understood what he was saying, but I couldn't process it fast enough to take good notes or anything. As I was hearing it, it was way awesome, but now I already don't remember too much. President Risso is the man though and he always gets me so stoked on missionary work and always makes me feel happier. I am so glad that he is my mission president. Sister Risso rules too.

Well, last night I was reading through my journal to see if I had anything cool to share with you guys this week. As I was reading I noticed that a reoccurring theme this week was the food. I thought it was kinda funny, so here are a few selections from my journal entries from this past week for you guys:


Well, I feel better finally! I feel way normal. Nice p-day with nothing planned for once. Read a lot of mail and wrote like two and a half letters. Woo! Pretty nice laid back day. I liked it. I can eat food now, but I have this problem, and its that I literally can no longer eat rice. I seriously physically can't do it. I'll try and I'll try but a forkful of rice will be in my mouth for like three minutes before I can swallow it. Its a big problem because WE ALWAYS EAT RICE!!


Pretty okay day. Good things, bad things. I have a serious problem though, and its that I cannot eat the food anymore. I can't make myself do it. Trust me, I try really hard to eat what we're given, but I'm always leaving big piles of rice or spaghetti noodles (equally as bad the way we eat them here...) uneaten on my plate after every meal. I used to be able to eat everything no problem, but ever since I got sick eating meals here became one of the worst experiences of my life. I still have an appetite. A big one. Just not for what we have to eat here. Yeeeuck.

[This night we were in Chiclayo and I didn't have to suffer through dinner. We ate basically the equivalent of Chef Boyardee raviolis with the zone leaders of the Chiclayo Peru zone. Not the best thing in the world, but basically the best thing in the world to me compared to what we have been eating.]
Well, we're in Chiclayo now. Just got here. We're staying the night in a way nice room with Elders Morales and Davis and the zone leaders of the Chiclayo Peru zone. I want this room!


The conference ruled. I wish we could have them more often. Its fun to get together with big groups of missionaries. AND WE ATE PIZZA FOR LUNCH!!! It was soooooo good!! I wish I had more. Pizza Hut. Chiclayo has Pizza Huts. One huge plus for Chiclayo!


Dinner was unbearably bad. I tried as hard as I could to eat it, but I barely ate anything. Our dinner was a huge pile of white rice, with a small gross piece of meat on top. Usually I at least eat everything but the rice, but the meat was disgusting too. And that's all it was. A small piece of gross meat and a gigantic pile of white rice. THAT IS NOT A DINNER!! I want more pizza. Anyway I felt really bad leaving an almost full plate of food at the sink but I couldn't help it. I seriously gave it my very best effort to eat the food but I just couldn't make myself. It was possibly the worst "meal" I've ever had in my entire life. Heck, bad meals back home were better than the best meals here. What's wrong with this place? How can people eat this much rice and not want to kill themselves?!?


I think tonight's dinner was trying to compete with last night's for worst meal ever made. I think last night beats it though. But here's what we had for dinner tonight: a huge pile of white rice, with a small gross piece of meat on top. AGAIN. Only a different kind of gross meat that tasted sort of like throw up, but still tasted better than last night's. The rice tonight was hard. Hard, old, gross rice. Kill me! Ate less than half of my dinner again. I can't help it. Trying to eat this food is the hardest thing I've ever had to do, and I'm not strong enough to do it.


Dinner was different tonight. Thank goodness.

Haha. Journals are fun!... to read. I'm so glad I'm making an effort to write every day. Even though this food problem is still ongoing, I'm already looking back and laughing at how ridiculous this experience has been. But oh gosh, no more rice please!!

That's pretty much it for this week. Sorry if this e-mail was severely lacking in Star Wars references, but y'know, I can't think of that many good ones right now.

Goodbye Chewbacca. Miss you I will.

 -Elder Hemsley

Here are some new pictures he sent this week:

"Elder Choc and I in Linea! (the bus we always take to Chiclayo)"

"Look! Old Victor still exists!...Wait, who's Victor?..."

"Day we helped paint. Covered in paint dust."

"These shoes are supposed to be black..."

"Elder Ruiz' last day."

Monday, February 20, 2012

"So sick so sick of being tired, and oh so tired of being sick!"

So sick so sick of being tired, and oh so tired of being sick!

This week was kinda rough. And it's not because I was a Valentines Day Weenie. But for multiple other reasons, including the fact that I got sick twice. Started feeling a little sub-par last Monday and then Tuesday I was super sick. Couldn't leave the room to proselyte. Wednesday I felt better and all was well. Thursday felt good, Friday felt good, and then boom, Saturday I was extremely sick all over again, and stayed in for the second time in one week. Started recovering little by little yesterday and today I'm all back to normal. But it's been tough! On top of that, this week every night the ward had an activity planned. A whole week of activities before the ward conference on Sunday. Well, I was way excited for it. Figured it would be fun, and it would be a good missionary opportunity... Well, long story short it was just about the worst experience of my entire mission. On Tuesday (the first day I was really sick) we had two Elders from Pueblo Nuevo come stay with us to help us out with the activity that night. It was an open-house at the chapel where members would invite friends and other people to tour the church building and learn a little more about what we do and our beliefs and such. Good idea right? So it's supposed to start at 7:30. We get there, and we wait... and wait and wait and wait and finally it "starts" at 8:30. Except only members were there. Oh great! So the branch leaders get up and start burning the members for not bringing friends or anything. That really bugged me, because the leaders didn't bring anyone either. Be an example! So they changed the activity an hour after it was supposed to start and had all the members that were there, and us missionaries (except for me because I was way too sick to do anything) to go out and to invite people we find on the street to the chapel. Seriously? Well we didn't have much time because we are supposed to be back in our room at 9:00, but that didn't matter to the branch leaders. Nobody cares about our schedule. So the night was pretty much chaos. Then after it was all over the elders ordered a pizza and I didn't eat any because I was sick. Noooooooooooooooooo!!!!!! That was so sad. Haha. Well, I figured the next activity would go better. Wednesday night was a talent show. Also supposed to start at 7:30. So we show up at 7:30... and wait and wait and wait and wait a freaking ton and it finally started at 9:30!! At which point we had to leave. Two hours totally wasted. I felt really bad too because we had investigators there and everything. People were leaving because it wasn't starting. How awful. Thursday night was more of the same. It was a movie night that also started super late. It was really frustrating. So we realized we were wasting a ton of time with these activities and didn't go to the one on Friday. Yikes. Rough week. With all those hours we lost, and the days we lost because of my sickness, we didn't really get a whole lot done this week. I feel bad about it but this week I'm gonna work the lower part of the back of the canister that is my body off!

The worst part about being sick here is having to deal with all the people who have all their own really weird ideas of how to help me get better. No, I don't want your weird pills, I don't want your weird foods, and I don't want your other weird concoctions that will supposedly heal me. I just want to rest. And I especially don't want to eat more rice! That's the hardest thing; trying to get the point across that you are too sick to eat food. You literally cannot tell anybody here that you don't want to eat. They will force you to eat. Every single time. And it makes me sicker. It's probably one of the most frustrating things I've ever had to deal with. Sometimes I'll settle on "just a little bit" of something and then they'll give me tons of food and I can't eat it all and it just makes me feel bad. Also in Peru, "a little bit" of rice, is a freaking gigantic pile of rice in the United States. A tiny bit of rice here is more rice than I've ever seen in the States. Oh gosh, I have eaten more rice in these past few months than anyone should ever eat in an entire eternity! Porter described his diet in the Phillipines as "rice, meat, soda, bread, repeat..." Yeah that's pretty much my same diet. Only rice is like 99% of it. Except for it also sounds like he's getting to eat all kinds of other yummy stuff and I'm just... eating rice. When I get home I am never eating rice again. Speaking of Porter, someone should let him know how much I love reading his updates. They get me so pumped and he's such a great example to me and it's so fun to read about all the similar experiences we're having! I liked how he talked about how he taught a pastor. Yeah, been there, done that. Except the pastor I taught was an ex-branch president who started his own church in his house after going inactive... whaaaaaaat... So weird. That was my second day in Pacasmayo so probably I only said like two words, but it was an interesting experience. I know of three inactive ex-branch presidents here in Pacasmayo. It's ridiculous.

Anywho, it's starting to get really, really hot here, which is kind of discouraging because Pacasmayo is the coolest city in our zone. Yikes! But at least I'm here during the hottest part of the year instead of somewhere where my face would melt off. I'm beginning to learn the true definition of being thirsty. I'm spending almost all of my money on drinks. Haha. It's rough. Also, we're supposed to always have our shoes shined, but the thing is, when you're serving your mission in the freaking desert of Tatooine you can't be outside for two seconds without your shoes being covered in dust. So when I shine my shoes, it looks kinda cool, as long as I never go outside after I shine them. Actually, Pacasmayo is more like that one level in The Force Unleashed where you go to the planet that's basically the galaxy's garbage dump and the entire planet is covered in garbage. Raxus Prime? Yeah, that planet is just barely an exaggeration of Pacasmayo. It's icky here. Garbage is everywhere and because of that everywhere smells really bad. And it's only Pacasmayo too. None of the other areas in our zone are like that. It's way gross. I don't have any pictures of the garbage because up until now I figured that wouldn't make a nice picture, but now I want to show you guys. Maybe someday.

I got to see Elder Ruiz for the last time yesterday. This morning he went home! His two years are up, and he lives in Lima so he's probably already at home right now with his family. Wow! Missions actually end? Elder Ruiz is the man and I'm gonna miss him a lot. I wonder who our new Zone Leader is gonna be...

Wow I'm seriously lacking good things to tell you this week! It's been a tough one. Thanks for all the updates though! Mega huge congrats to Emilie for getting her call to Honduras!! So awesome!! And Hannah Hutcheson is waiting for a call too (or maybe already got it by now...)? So cool! Also Jacqueline said that she wanted me to mention her in an e-mail so I'm just gonna make fun of her for having to read The River Between in IHS. Ahahahahahahahahaha. That book is the worst. Also IHS in general. Fer realz. My first two years of high school were not that fun, and then I switched from IHS to regular South and my second two years were the funnest. Wow, high school was way fun. But I digest... RICE.

Also WHAT THE HECK SAM PLAYS THE CELLO?!??!??!?! How come nobody told me this earlier? Didja know that the cello is one of the instruments I want to learn the most? I mean, there's a long list of instruments I want to learn, but the cello is pretty high up on that list. That is so cool!! I never knew. I think on that list is guitar, piano, voice (counts), drums, ocarina (of time!), cello, organ, violin, banjo, bass guitar, ukulele... probably more.

Today we had our first free p-day in... forever. A p-day without any zone activities planned. So I figured it was my one change to actually write some letters for once. Well... I wrote two. So that's a start! To Mom and Dad. Sorry siblings. Sorry friends. But writing these two letters is an important first step to writing more!... maybe? We'll see what I can do. And super thanks for the Valentines Day stuff! I've hardly eaten any of the candy because I've been sick. But I ate some of the sour gummi worms. Mmm... But they weren't that sour. But that's what the Warheads are for!! Ahh I'm so excited to eat Warheads!! And Chewy Gobstoppers again. Where do you find those things? Adam and I are both very well aware that Chewy Gobstoppers are harder to find than an Entei without a Pokégear. But thanks for them because I love them oh so much. Elder Choc appreciated his treats too!

So yeah, I'll try to have more good stuff to say next week. This week wasn't the greatest of weeks for me. If I had to briefly describe the biggest problem this branch has, it would be... unity, tithing, arguing, keeping the sabbath day holy, reading the scriptures, friendshipping, gossiping, callings, punctuality, interest in missionary work, waiting for everyone else to do all the work before you have to do anything... etc... Yeah, it's kind of mind blowing how different things are here. It really makes me appreciate home and our ward a whole ton. I'm way happy to be here with Elder Choc for another transfer, but I think after this one I'll be ready to get to know a different area of Peru. Hopefully I'll get transferred to Hoth.

Oh yeah, maybe we're getting running water today!... though I'm not gonna get my hopes up. Haha. Talk to you next week!

Sorry for all the "one-percenters". Never expect those to stop.

-Elder Hemsley

I had to ask Jacqueline (Victor's sister) what the "one-percenters" comment meant.  She said that that means all the jokes or references that only about one percent of the people reading this letter are going to get... Victor sent a few more pictures this week.  Enjoy! 
-- Victor's Mom

"Told you I was on Tatooine!"

"Lost in the Peruvian wilderness..."


Monday, February 13, 2012

"V-day rules and I'm way stoked for it. Also celebrate by writing me letters!"

Well, this week was...a week. Pretty normal I guess? Well a few cool things happened. Elder Choc and I got to go help a member paint a big room in his house. Except before we were able to paint we had to take off all the existing paint with sandpaper. That took about seven million years. My arms were seriously dying of tired from rubbing the walls for so long. The paint came off in a powder, like chalk residue, and it got everywhere. I don't have my camera with me today but I have some pictures of me completely covered in paint dust. Lets just say that my black Vans shoes are now white. So at least it was cool that we got to help him out. Service for the win!

Also on Tuesday I finally got mail for the first time in a month! A freaking mountain of Dear Elders, and one actual letter, and two packages. Nice. You guys are really awesome because you always make everyone jealous of how much mail I get compared to them. Haha. Keep it up. One of the packages was sent on November 18th... so... fairly high-speed mail delivery if I do say so myself. It was more Christmas presents that I was not expecting at all. Thank you familia! Probably my favorite thing was getting the Conference edition of the Ensign IN ENGLISH. I have been reading it a lot. I like English. Wow, English is so awesome. I opened the second package and realized it was for Valentines Day so I didn't take anything out and I left it for tomorrow. Spoiling surprises is the worst! But I'm excited and thank you for sending it to me (I only saw the t-shirt. Rose Bowl champs 2012!). I promise I will try to reply to the letters eventually, but just so you know I haven't written a single letter since December because it's really hard to find time to do it.

Anywayz after the zone meeting on Tuesday we had interviews with the Prez. President Risso is the way coolest guy ever. I was a little worried actually that he was gonna be a little upset with Elder Choc and I because our numbers haven't been exactly incredible, but the first thing he said to me was "So Elder Hemsley, how's Pacasmayo? It's a hard area, I know..." Oh thank goodness he understands! He also said to me "Elder Choc told me you two are showering with buckets." "Yeah, we are..." "You can't do that!! I didn't know your room didn't have running water!" Haha, oh... I knew it was a little unusual that we didn't have running water, but I didn't know it was actually not allowed. I mean, ol' Porter Long is showering with a bucket in the 'Pines so I assumed it was alright. "Your dad would kill me if he knew you were showering with buckets!" he told me. I was just kinda sitting there thinking well, he does know, and he probably thinks that it's kind of funny actually... Lolz. And then he was like "and he told me that with your penchant you eat the same thing for dinner that you ate for lunch, but re-heated... You can't do that either! Your penchant is not supposed to do that!" Haha thank goodness because I hate that. And then later he asked "and how's your family doing?" and I responded "they're doing good, I think... Well I don't really know, I just got a month's worth of letters from them, so I'll find out later." "A month's worth of letters? How come?" So I told him about how the missionaries in the office weren't sending us our mail because we didn't have all of our baptismal records in, and he was like "seriously? They weren't sending you your mail?... They're not allowed to do that!" Haha. Wow. I assumed he knew. Guess not. So I don't think I'll be having that problem any longer. But holy crap! That's a lot of problems! The interview got me excited, because I think I realized that yeah, we have a ton of problems in Pacasmayo, and that most of the mission is not like that, so I have stuff to look forward too. Elder Choc told me the same thing, that when I get to other areas I'll realize how different most of the mission is. As we were driving back to ol' Pacasmayo I was thinking about why God would send me to Pacasmayo as my first area? Why would he send me, a brand new missionary who doesn't know anything, to a tough area where the branch has a ton of problems that are out of our control, and where we'd see little success, along with having crap living conditions that are apparently so crappy they're against the rules to have, and where I'd have to go a month without hearing from my family? Why here, of all places? And as I was thinking about it the thought clearly came to my head: "because God trusts you." Instantly I was reminded of my patriarchal blessing witch says that exact same thing. God trusts me. So that hit me kinda hard. God knew where He was sending me, and He knew I'd be able to deal with it, and learn and grow a whole lot on the way. It kinda got me way more excited about doing the work here. Kinda cool thing.

Also this week we went to a city called Jequetepeque for the first time (coolest city name ever. Heck-ay-tay-peck-ay). It's another city that's actually part of our area but we've never been. We went to visit this guy who we met at church who invited us to come visit him because he had just moved from Lima and was listening to the missionaries there and he wants to learn more because his wife and some other relatives are members of the church. Okay, awesome! He's way, way cool. He's already read the whole Book of Mormon (not even the members here have done that) and he knows its true, and when we first visited him he told us "look, I'm going to get baptized for sure, I'm just not quite ready yet." So we visited him twice this week and they were great visits. But the second time he was getting his floor tiled and the workers started cutting tile in the middle of our visit and it was the loudest thing in the world and it was stupidly hard to try to visit with him. Then, to make things worse (or I dunno, I kinda liked it...) at one of the moments when it was quiet, I suddenly hear somebody upstairs (another family lives upstairs) blasting blink-182. Ohhhhh woow. I haven't heard blink in five months! It was more than a little bit difficult to try to focus on the lesson and not the song, when its my first time hearing one of my favorite songs ever in five months. Gah. But it ended, and by the end of the lesson, he accepted a baptismal date for March 3rd. So success!! He's the best.

I have a cool story about tithing to tell you, if I have time to explain it all... Okay I'm gonna try!

Anyway first of all, tithing is one of the things people like to hate most about the Church. Including the members here. It's actually a huge problem this branch has. Anyway, what non-members may be thinking is that the bishop just wants their money or something. Silly people! The bishop doesn't want your money! The scriptures clearly teach that Church leaders are not to be paid for their service.

"...the priests whom he had ordained should labor with their own hands for their support.

"And the priests were not to depend upon the people for their support; but for their labor they were to receive the grace of God, that they might wax strong in the Spirit, having the knowledge of God, that they might teach with power and authority from God. (Mosiah 18: 24, 26)."

And here's one from La Biblia as well:

"Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. (1 Peter 5: 2-3)."

The Bible and the Book of Mormon teach the same things. Go figure. Nobody in the Church gets paid for what they do. Not the bishops, not the teachers, not the missionaries. Everything in the Church is service. So where does your tithing go?

"Tithing funds are used to support the ongoing activities of the Church, such as building and maintaining temples and meetinghouses, carrying the gospel to all the world, conducting temple and family history work, and many other worldwide activities. Tithing does not pay local Church leaders, who serve without receiving payment of any kind.

"Local Church leaders send the tithing received each week directly to Church headquarters. A council comprised of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve, and the Presiding Bishopric determines specific ways to use the sacred tithing funds (Preach My Gospel)."

Okay, so we're not paying the bishop so that he can buy himself a nice big TV (and both Star Wars trilogies on bluray). But still, paying your tithing is hard! Paying a full tithe means willingly giving ten percent of your total income to the Lord. That's a big chunk of your money, and to people who don't fully understand the purpose of tithing and the blessings that come from it, that ten percent can be a really hard thing to give up.

Well, the other day we went to visit this sister named Antonia. She's a single mom of two sons who until just recently was living in a house made of tarps and sticks. Now she lives in an adobe house under a roof that dumps gallons of water on her and her kids every time it rains. Dirt floors, holes in the walls. She has no job, and she has no money, other than the little bit that her mother occasionally sends her. Life has been really hard on her and she's been struggling with depression because of it. Well, Antonia is a recent convert to the Church, and she decided to make it a goal to be ready and worth to go to the temple for her first time in July when the branch has a temple trip planned. She's made an effort to get active in Church and she's really trying to make a lot of changes in her life. So we show up at her house and she invites us in, and tells us that she just got back from work... Back from work?? She got a job?? Elder Choc and I were way excited for her, and she shared with us her experience of how she was finally able to get a job.

That past Sunday had been fast Sunday, and she realized she needed to pay her fast offerings and tithing. It was a hard decision to make, but she told herself "I have this goal to go to the temple, so I have to pay my tithing." So she paid her fast offering of three soles, and her tithing of five soles. Five soles isn't even two dollars. She was paying her ten percent of the 50 soles her mother had sent her. She told us she felt sort of ashamed paying so little when others were paying so much more, but she had no job and almost no money. She paid a full tithe. It makes me think of the story in the Bible when Jesus was at the treasury and people were casting their money in, "and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living (Mark 12: 41-44)."

So Antonia paid her tithing, and she felt good about it. Happy that she's making the right choices to make it closer to her temple goal. Later that night it started to rain again. A ton. Tons of water started pouring from her ceiling, as she and her kids were trying to sleep. This made her unhappy again. She was stressed, and she was worried about her kids. She decided to kneel down and offer a prayer, saying "Heavenly Father, I paid my tithing, I paid my fast offerings, just please, please help me find a job so that I can make money to take care of my kids." After praying she went to sleep, and at 6:00 the next morning her phone rang and she was offered a job. "Now I'm always going to pay my tithing" she told us.

Isn't that the coolest story ever?? As a missionary I get to watch so many people experience miracles in their lives as they embrace the gospel and strive to follow it's teachings. One of my favorite scriptures in the Old Testament has to do with tithing. In it, the Lord says "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it (Malachi 3:10)."

I love that scripture because the Lord is basically saying "Try me. Pay your tithing, and just see if I don't pour out blessings upon you. I dare you." Haha. I just love how it's worded. Isn't that an incredible promise though? Antonia has experienced for herself that the promise is true.

True To The Faith says: "If you have not yet established a pattern of consistent tithe paying, you may have difficulty believing that you can afford to give up one-tenth of your income. But faithful tithe payers learn that they cannot afford not to pay tithing. In a very literal and wonderful way, the windows of heaven are opened and blessings are poured our upon them.”

"Remember that paying tithing is not as much a matter of money as it is a matter of faith. Trust in the Lord."

Tithing is pretty cool. Sadly it's one of the big problems this branch has. Hardly any tithe payers. If people paid their tithing this branch would be a ward.

Anyway, that was a kewl experience I had this week. Tomorrow is Valentines Day and I'm stoked to open up that package I got! Don't be one of those Valentines Day weenies who hates Valentines’ Day and gets all sad every time it comes around and eats at Weenie Hut Jr.'s every Double Weenie Wednesday. I love Valentines Day! And you know how many V-day's I've spent with a special girl? About zero, give or take none. But it doesn't matter because Valentines Day is a day to be way happy and eat tons of candy. Go out and buy a ton of Sweethearts and chow down on those because they are freaking delicious. Celebrate by popping in Star Wars Ep. III and watching Anakin's and Padmé's awkward relationship develop and then end. V-Day rules and I'm way stoked for it. Also celebrate by writing me letters! Lolololololokaybye.

I miss you all but I really, really miss Rocket a ton and I haven't heard from him in five months and it is not fair at all. Tell him to send me a letter.

-Elder Hemsley

Monday, February 6, 2012

"Always pray. That is all."

Hello hello!

Well, last night we got the call... I'm staying in Pacasmayo with Elder Choc for another transfer!! Woo yay!! I'm way happy about that. Only two sisters are getting transferred out of our whole zone which is kinda weird. Cool though! I'm stoked!

Last night I couldn't sleep because a ridiculously stupid amount of water was pouring down from our ceiling. So that was... annoying. I hate rain! I always have, and now I hate it even worse. Rain is the worst. The end.

Anywayz, I dunno what to really talk about this week. I have a lot I could talk about, but not a lot of time to write about it. Sometimes I wish you could just read my journal instead because it's more detailed about everything. Speaking of that, how's the journal writing coming?

There's this girl we're teaching named Emily. She is eight years old and lives with her dad and aunt who are both members of the church. We're helping her get ready for her baptism, and she's my favorite person ever to teach! She's incredibly smart. She speaks like an adult. She's a genius. Like, she's eight years old and she's smarter than literally everyone else we've ever taught. Usually when we ask people questions in our visits they respond "uh, I dunno" without even thinking about it for at least a good portion of the questions. Not Emily. She answers every single question. And she answers every single question right. One thing she said actually kinda blew me away. We asked her why she thinks that God calls prophets. Normally a standard answer would be (other than "I don't know") something like "to guide us" or "to lead us" or "to keep us in line" or something along those lines. This is what Emily's answer was, after thinking about it for a few seconds: "God calls prophets... to show His love for us." ... are you kidding me?! That's the best answer ever! Sometimes little kids say it best. I learned something from Emily that night. She's amazing and super ready for her baptism. Though she doesn't really count for us because she's an eight year old in a member family, but still!

We've had a ton of really weird visits this week. I can't really do them justice in this e-mail. But there are some really crazy people in this world, and for these next two years I get the opportunity to enter their houses and spend some time with them. And sometimes that's not my favorite thing in the world to do. Haha. We just got a ton of super weird questions this week that had nothing to do with anything we were talking about or anything important whatsoever. Kind of annoying.

We've had some really good ones too. Like the other day, we went to visit one of our investigators, but he wasn't home, We we're gonna leave, but another lady who is his step-daughter invited us in to visit with her. We've met her before. She's there a lot when we go to visit the family. She's a member but she has been inactive ever since she was a little kid so really she hardly knows anything about the gospel. Normally when we're visiting with the family and she's there she just makes fun of us and cracks jokes and is loud and distracting, so I wasn't so sure about how this was gonna go. Well, we go in, and decide to teach her about The Book of Mormon because she didn't even know what that was. We started by talking about Joseph Smith to give a little bit of background. She seemed to be understanding pretty well. As we were just about finishing up, our investigator and his wife (who is also an inactive member) showed up and decided they wanted to visit with us too. His wife asked if we had a message to share about families, so we shared a little bit about how the gospel blesses families and I bore my testimony about how much the gospel has blessed my family's life. It was a good short lesson. By the end this lady who is normally really obnoxious and irreverent was just sitting there all calm and you could tell that the Spirit had touched her heart. The gospel changes people's lives if they will just give it a chance. I get the opportunity to see that happen all the time out here. It's the coolest thing ever.

Other than that, the other day I was thinking about how big of a part prayer has been in my life. Growing up in the church, I've always had a testimony of this gospel, but I haven't exactly always loved church. For a big part of my life I thought church was one of the top most boring things in the world, and that reading the scriptures was the number 1 most boring thing of all time (other than playing Signs). But if there's one thing I've always been good at, it's been praying. Prayer has been such a huge part of my life and I never even really realized that until the other day. I say silent prayers in my head so often I don't even realize it anymore. Even back home with my friends, I would always be praying. I don't think anyone ever knew that. At any moment when I felt like I needed a little extra help, I'd say a silent prayer in my head. When I'd be eating dinner at a friend's house or something I'd always say a silent prayer in my head asking Heavenly Father to bless the food and thanking Him for it. Or perhaps I'd be at Disneyland and unexpectedly get to spend the whole day with my awesomest pal Reyn Yeager, and also run into one of my EFY leaders who I love. I could wait until I'm ready for bed to pray, but nah, I'd say a prayer just to say thanks for letting me have a great day as I'm walking back to the parking lot to leave. My whole life I've always prayed every night before going to sleep. It's such a habit that sometimes I find myself laying in bed forever, unable to sleep, and then I realize that I forgot to say my prayer, and then I say one and I can finally sleep easily. As missionaries we pray all the time. Every night before bed and every morning when we get up, both individually as well as together as companions. We pray before every meal, before we study, before we leave to go out teaching, before and after we plan for the next day, and we pray with everybody we go to visit. And that's not counting all the prayers I say in my head throughout the day. It's like there's always a constant prayer in my heart. Whenever we have to go to another city I always pray that we'll get there safely, because you always feel like you're going to die when you get in a car in Peru. It's way scary. Drivers here are insane and I'm extremely grateful that I don't get to be driving among them. I don't usually remember the dreams I have, but I have noticed that sometimes in my dreams when I'm worried or need help or something that I say a prayer in my dreams. Then when I wake up I'm like "wait, did I seriously just pray in my dream?... I guess I really believe that prayer works." And I know it works. Prayer has always been such a giant part of my life and I never even realized it.

When I gave my farewell talk back at home, four of my closest friends came to hear me speak and support me. It was the last time I got to see any of my friends before I left for Utah. I didn't know it at the time, but later my Dad told me that after the meeting he was talking to them and thanked them for being there, and that one of them said to him "oh, I really wanted to be here. When I'm around Victor, I just feel different." That hit me really hard and still kind of blows me away to this moment. I never knew that. I never knew I could have that kind of an affect on somebody. Then later when I was in the Provo MTC at my first devotional, I felt one of the strongest impressions of the Spirit I felt in my entire life as this man walked into the same room I was in. I didn't see him, and I had no idea who he was, but I felt different just because of his presence. Really different, and really amazing. Then when I finally realized it was one of the 12 apostles it made sense to me. That experience hit me really hard because of what my friend had said about me at church that Sunday. I'm not going to claim I know why he felt like that, but I'd like to think it has something to do with the relationship I've been trying to develop with my Heavenly Father all these years through my prayers.

Prayer is always one of the first things we teach people about. Because if they don't have that communication with their Father is Heaven they won't be able to know for themselves that the message we are sharing is true. Prayer is so crucial. Without it, we can't do anything as missionaries. If the people don't pray, they don't progress, and they don't get it. These past few months as I've been preparing for and starting my mission, prayer has become an even bigger part of my life than ever before. My prayers are so different now, and I truly feel like I'm talking to one of my best friends as I talk with my Heavenly Father. Ever since I've been making prayer a bigger part of my life, I've been receiving so many more answers to my prayers. What a strange concept... Ask more, get more. Kinda just like the scriptures say, eh? "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened (Matthew 7:7-8)." The scriptures are so true! Every week my testimony of the scriptures skyrockets even higher as I begin to experience the promises they give to us in my own life. Prayer is such an incredible power that God has blessed us with. We are HIs children, and because we are His children He wants us to be able to communicate with Him. I know that He listens, and I know that He answers, because I've experienced it over and over again. "And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you (3 Nephi 18:20)." It's been on my mind a lot lately...

Anyway, we didn't get mail again last week but Elder Burton told me we are getting it this week, so I'll finally be able to hear from you guys again. It's been a month! I'm excited! Love you all so hard!

Always pray. That is all.

-Elder Hemsley

Here are a couple of pictures that Victor took earlier today!:

"Me dying in the desert."


There are a few more new pictures! You can check them out (full-sized) by clicking on the slideshow at the top of this blog.

--Victor's Mom