Sunday, August 12, 2012

"Peruvians all have an extreme fear of the cold. Specifically, of cold beverages. "

Hi again!

I just wanted to let you know that I haven't died yet. And that's a miracle, because I haven't felt healthy since I was in the United States. I don't think my body is ever going to adapt to Peru. I'm not always sick, but I never feel totally healthy either. It's gross.

However, life is treating me well out here in Chiclayo. Still adjusting to this new area. Chiclayo is so much different than either of my previous areas. It's a little bit closer to being like home, but still extremely different. More modern, but still less modern than home. I like it though. I've been a lot happier here actually. Elder Navas, my new comp, is really the greatest. He's so funny and he's a great missionary. He also knows English really well, and we can have conversations in English 'n stuff. Pretty neato. And he's a Star Wars fan. Win. The other guys in the office are all really great, and it's way fun to live with other missionaries. Rooms with six missionaries basically don't exist. 95% of the time, it's just you and your comp. The other five percent of the time two companionships get to share a room, and the other 0% of the time is when six elders live together. I like it a lot though :) Plus its obviously super rad to get to be around President Risso and his wife more often, because they're the best!

There is lots of work to do as the financial secretary of a mission. I've been getting the hang of this little by little. Still feel pretty uncomfortable, and worried that I'm gonna mess something up big time, but so far everything has seemed to work out. It's tough to have to answer missionary's questions when they don't understand something, because I barely understand either! But all is well. Last week all the missionaries here in the office had a meeting with President and Sister Risso. More than anything it was to welcome Elder Samamé and me into the office. President Risso made sure to make it clear that he doesn't pick the best missionaries to be in the office. Haha, dang it! I thought I was the best!! Actually my whole mission has been sooo humbling. From day one. Gotta speak Spanish from day one?! Are you kidding?! I don't know this language! Then getting sent to Lima, and not understanding a single thing the native speakers say, and then getting thrown into the mission field barely knowing anything and still barely speaking the language. Having to direct your area when your trainer gets transferred before he's even finished training you, having to train a new missionary when you're still a new missionary, and then getting put in charge of all the money for the entire Chiclayo Peru mission. Bwah!! I'm not ready for or capable to do any of this!! If there's one thing I do not feel, it is pride. Everything is so humbling. But everything works out in the end. The whole experience has been amazing. President Risso said he picks elders who he feels he can trust and who he thinks can work well in an office environment. He told me that as the person who's in charge of the money for the entire mission, there really isn't any room for any big mistakes. Yikes! But that he trusts me and he knows I'll be able to do it. Let's hope so! Being in the office is way different than...not being in the office. With Elder Navas as my comp, since he's in charge of ordering stuff for and delivering stuff to all the areas in the mission, sometimes I have to go out with him to go buy things, and sometimes we even have to deliver them ourselves to other areas! The other day we went to deliver 15 plastic chairs for the casa capilla in an area called Picsi, which is like 20 minutes outside of Chiclayo. We get to do a lot of different things here.

I had my first weekly report meeting with President the other day. Was a little lost but it went well. Haha. Gotta report to him every week on what the mission has been spending money on 'n stuff. My next report is on Monday. Normally they're on Mondays. Oh yeah, and also, being in the office, we don't really get that many p-days. We sort of have like half a p-day on Mondays, and that's only if we don't still have things we need to do in the office. So sometimes, we don't even get p-days! But it's okay, because being here is pretty dang cool. And if I ever don't write to you some Monday, like I didn't this week, then I'll probably be able to make up for it during the week sometime.

Anyway, there is something that I've been meaning to try to explain to you basically ever since my first week in the field that I've never gotten around to explaining. Peru is an extremely superstitious country, and they have the weirdest beliefs about such silly things. Some of these beliefs have negative effects on my personal well-being. Allow me to explain...Peruvians all have an extreme fear of the cold. Specifically, of cold beverages. For some reason, every Peruvian is convinced that drinking anything that has been refrigerated is dangerous. If you aren't sick, if you drink something cold, you will get sick. And if you are sick, well, a cold drink will for sure kill you. And heaven forbid if you actually put ice cubes in your drink!! You might as well be putting rat poison in it instead, because it will have the same effect! This bothers me a lot, because it makes buying cold drinks difficult. It's like 50 million degrees here! Why would I want to drink lukewarm soda?? Why?! Everything tastes worse when it's not cold!! (Although apparently I can handle drinking 48 cans of warm Mountain Dew with James at EFY... actually 46 because we miraculously refrigerated two cans...). To buy something cold here, you have to specifically ask for it cold, and then you have to be lucky if it's actually cold. Some stores keep drinks in the fridge, but the fridge must be set to like 60 degrees or something, because the drinks are not cold. When I'm dying of heat, I want an ice cold drink! And then sometimes you ask for a cold soda and they don't have any that's cold, but like a never-ending supply of warm soda. The worst part is the belief that if you're sick, you can not even think about drinking something cold, OR YOU WILL DIE!! This caused me a lot of problems in my first area, because I got sick fairly often. I was sick, and it was like 500 degrees out. All I wanted was something ice cold to help me feel a little bit better. But no, my penchant gave me not only drinks that weren't cold, but drink that were hot. ARE YOU TRYING TO MAKE ME MISERABLE?!?!?!?? I'm already sweating like a pig, and she gives me a hot drink. The. Worst. Thing. Ever. I seriously had to go out and buy my own cold water and cold drinks in secret, because she would not let me touch anything that was cold. I was with Elder Choc at the time, and he said that in Guatemala those beliefs don't exist. Elder Navas says they don't exist in Costa Rica either. My only companion who also avoided cold drinks when he felt sick was Elder Lobato, who is from here. And its not only drinks! Whenever I felt sick in Olmos, everyone always told me, "oh, it must be the climate change, now that we're entering winter and it's getting so cold..." Are you kidding me? Cold?? Winter here is hotter than any summer I've ever experienced!! And parents are basically wrapping up their kids in heavy duty snow gear to make sure they don't die of cold. I'm suffering in my short sleeve shirt! It's just ridiculous. Elder Navas told me about how one time he was doing a service project when his clothes got a little wet and the lady he was doing service for freaked out because he was for sure going to get super sick because his clothes were wet. Uh?? The thing I don't understand, is that if everyone is so afraid of the cold, especially cold water, then why is it that the majority of the people here bathe or shower with cold water?! It doesn't make any sense! Drinking a small glass of cold water is like having a death wish, but covering my entire body in uncomfortably cold water is somehow okay. Do not get it. I've tried to explain various times to people, that my entire life I've lived with a doctor in my house, and I've never once been told that drinking something cold will make me sick, or make me sicker. When I'm sick, I eat ice cream! In the United States they even give sick patients ice cream in the hospitals! Even when I'm in Rexburg and it's like 10 below zero, I still have to drink refrigerated drinks, because warm drinks are gross. And I also wore less winter clothing there than they wear here in like 70 degrees. Just had to finally explain to you about this thing that has been bothering me my entire mission. Weird, huh?

Speaking of being sick, I have been sick this past week. Kinda like a cold mixed with stomach problems. Not the funnest thing in the world. But today I feel mostly better. As better as I can feel in Peru at least! Never 100%. But it's all good now. Cured myself with cold water, cold soda, and cold juices. Seems to have worked.

Chiclayo has proved to be interesting so far. We've had our fair share of weird experiences already. The other day, we got out of our last lesson of the night and started walking back to our room. We were walking down the street when this guy walked by and said to us "Hermanos! Buenas noches! You know, you need to be careful around here. You're not from here and people don't know you, so they might try and rob you." Oh, okay, thanks guy, see ya! You could tell he was drunk, or crazy, or most likely a combination. So we continued to our room, talking about whatever weird thing. About five minutes later, we hear a whistle from behind us. We look back, and that same guy had apparently been following us that entire time and was trying to catch up to us in his drunkenness. Well, we start walking faster, and he starts awkwardly stumbling making some sort of drunken attempt to run to keep up. Then we start walking as fast as we can, so stupidly fast, and he just keeps following us! With this awkward half-run half-stumble, and he keeps occasionally whistling. This went on for a surprisingly long time, until we finally turned a corner, and then just booked it across a street. We lost him, even though we should have still been in plain sight. But, that was a fairly creepy experience.

On Sunday we decided to go visit a member to see how they were doing. On the way to their house, this guy stops us on the sidewalk, and says "Hey! You're members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, right? Wow, you guys are so great, I really admire what you guys are doing, preaching the word of God. I love God too. What you're doing is really great and really important." And he just went on a little longer than comfortable, flattering us and saying how great it was what we're doing. He had a few bags on him. He was a salesman. Elder Navas and I look at each other like you have got to be kidding me...So he went on to tell us about his product that he was trying to sell. Some powder that is apparently really good for our bodies. He was saying stuff like "in the Bible it talks about how our bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost, and so we need to take care of our bodies. This product is really good for our bodies." He never even really told us what it was. Well, when Elder Navas and I finally broke the news to him that no thanks we don't want it, plus it's Sunday and we don't buy things on Sunday, and plus, we don't have any money anyway, the guy just did a 180. Went from being creepily overly complimentary to all of the sudden telling us that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is false, and evil, that the Book of Mormon leads people to hell, that its stupid to believe in the angel José Smith, that we shouldn't believe in the Book of Mormon because it talks about Mormons and Joseph Smith and not about Jesus, that we must be millionaires if we're giving out Books of Mormon for free, and if we're so rich then we should be able to spare five soles to buy his product, and that somehow we're trying to one-up him buy giving things out for free when he has to sell his product to make a living, etc... All kinds of false ideas. This went on for a while. He was not happy that we didn't want to buy his product. I can't believe how immature some people can be, even full grown men. That was like the stupidest thing ever. It was funny though...

I didn't only have bad experiences though. Haha. I'm sharing the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, the most important thing I could possibly be doing right now. Of course there are gonna be great experiences as well. Earlier this week I was reading something on the Church website about Elder Holland in Africa, and he said something I really loved:

One key to the Church’s success in Africa, Elder Holland said, is that “we don’t get involved in conspicuous, socio-political issues. We preach the gospel. We are concerned about justice, and we are concerned about social opportunity and equity. But we think the answer to that is the gospel, so we just preach the gospel. And it has been true elsewhere and it is true in Africa, that people get that insight, blessing, and light in their lives, and suddenly things start to change and their lives are blessed.”

That's what I get to share with these people. The gospel blesses lives so much, and I love seeing these people begin to experience those blessings for themselves. That's the whole reason I came here. This week we went to go visit a girl named Maria. She's 16, and the missionaries have been visiting her for a while I guess but it was my first time meeting her. At first I didn't really know what to expect or what to think. A lot of the time when we teach high school aged kids they might say whatever they think we want them to say, but they aren't really sincere. They don't really care that much. They just don't know how to tell us that they're not interested in a nice way, so they pretend they're interested. Haha. Anyway I kinda went into this lesson expecting sort of the same thing. We started teaching her, and we taught about baptism. The lesson went super well. She really had a true desire to learn what we were sharing, and we invited her to be baptized, and she told us that she really wanted to, the only problem is getting permission from her parents, because her dad is apparently super against the Church, or any church other than the Catholic church. But she really has the desire to be baptized. She's been attending church without her parents for a while now, and she's going to seminary, and going to the ward activities and everything. The Spirit was so strong during the lesson. It just reminded me, that even though its kinda fun to be in the office, the best part of the mission is when you're teaching a lesson, and you can feel the Spirit, and you know that the investigator can feel the Spirit too and they act on those feelings and follow those promptings they receive. That's the best part about being a missionary. Anyway, at the end of the lesson, Elder Navas asked her to give the closing prayer. She didn't want to at first, and then when she finally accepted she was like "uh, how does it go again?", and I'm just sitting there thinking oh great, she doesn't even know how to pray. She's one of those investigators who never prays... But then she remembered, and started praying, and gave literally the best prayer I've ever heard an investigator give. She thanked God for the visit she was able to have with the missionaries and the lesson we shared, and asked that the missionaries would be able to visit her more often. She asked for help to stay away from the temptations of the world, and to be able to continue learning more and growing in her faith. She prayed that she would be able to get baptized soon. And a bunch of other great stuff. I couldn't believe what I was hearing honestly. The prayer was just so good. Later, Elder Navas told me how the first time she ever came to Church, she wasn't really that excited about it, but when Church was over they were going to take her back to her home, and she told them that she wanted to stay a little bit longer, because she loved it so much, and she learned so much, and that she now knows that the Book of Mormon is true and that the Church is true, and she didn't want to leave! There are so many people out here who have been so prepared to let the gospel enter and bless their lives. We just have to find them.

Also, here there are some members who are from Olmos, and the other night one of them told me that she was in Olmos, and she talked to Silvia, and that she's active in the Church, and that she's paying her tithing and everything, and that she seems really happy. So awesome! She also told me that Edwin is obviously active in the Church, and that he was baptized by Wilson, his friend. So cool!! I miss Olmos. I do like it here a lot though. I've been really happy here in Chiclayo. I've been sick, but I've been happy every day. I've been overwhelmed with all the things I now have to do as the financial secretary, but I've been really happy. I don't know. I feel like I shouldn't be happy, but I am anyway. I feel really blessed.

Other fun thing: The other night I remembered that Elder Hatch is from Provo, and so I asked him if by chance he knows Porter Long, and he totally does!! Haha. Small world. Not not mention the fact that Elder Hatch is in Grandma and Grandpa's ward. Too weird. I swear in this Church no matter where you are its so easy to run into either someone that you know, or someone that knows someone you know. Kinda like how basically every single time I go to Utah I seem to run into someone I know from Eugene like 100% of the time. I feel like this isn't the first time on my mission I've talked to someone who knows someone else I know, but I can't remember who else. Not counting the MTC where I ran into like infinity people I knew. Anyway, that's kinda funny. Obviously in Peru I'm gonna run into people who know my friends. Duh.

Okay I gotta get going. But I watched this video the other day and I thought it was pretty cool: It's from the talk that Elder Holland gave in October that I liked so much. Pretty awesome.

And if you feel like a nice long read, check out this sweet article I found by Orson Scott Card, a.k.a. the guy who wrote Ender's Game and a bajillions of other books (speaking of that, I heard Ender's Game is going to be made into a movie? Is that true??). It's all about the Book of Mormon, and it's really long, but its super interesting, coming from the perspective as an author of fiction. I liked it a whole lot. I didn't even remember he was a member of the Church. I remember reading Ender's Game when I was little and being surprised because it was the first book I ever read that cussed and had some more adult themes in it. Haha. Probably reading it now I wouldn't even notice. Way cool article though. Here it is:

Sorry for the delay on the e-mail! Monday was super loco and we had no time to write to our families! Hopefully next Monday will be a little less crazy. Hope you like the photos! Miss you all!

-Elder Hemsley

(Victor sent a ton of new pictures that I will add to the blog later)

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