Hey guys. Well, I'm sitting here right now, looking at the calendar, and I've realized something very strange... I've started repeating months. This is my second September in the mission. So weird. It's all downhill from here! New Found Glory.
Anyways, transfers. Elder Navas is outta here! He's off to Chachapoyas, a.k.a. the coolest area in the entire mission that's like ten hours away from here. But that is not all; he's going as Branch President!! How crazy is that?? He was a great comp. Gonna miss that guy. My new companion's name is Elder Perea, and he's from... Guatemala! Again! I wonder if I can make it through my entire mission only having one Peruvian companion. The ideal for me would be like... being a Zone Leader with a North American as my companion. That sometimes happens. And its basically the only way I could have a gringo comp who's not a newb. Well, anything could happen, but still. The thing is, being a ZL doesn't seem too fun now that I have to deal with the ZL's all the time and see all the stuff they have to do. Haha. Whatever. It would be cool I guess. Don't have to worry about that while I'm in the office.
Well, this week has been insanely busy. Probably the busiest week of my life. The week before and after transfers are ridiculous. Life in the office is so different that being out in the field full-time. It's such a big change. It's gonna be weird to go back out there once I'm done with this. Let's see, what did I get to do this week... Well, on Wednesday, Elder Navas and I went to Lambayeque with the Assistants to go room hunting in a new area that's opening this transfer. Had to find a place for the missionaries to stay, and a house where the members can meet on Sundays. Room hunting. That's new. (I needed some help from Elder Paul. Sounds like he became a pro room hunter on his mish!) We split up and Elder Navas went with Elder Hatch and I went off with Elder Chuiz. Chuiz and I had just about no luck, but Navas and Hatch found something that could work, so at least there was that. Room hunting is kind of weird here. It's not like we can look in the newspaper to see who's renting or selling a room or a house, or check the internet or anything. We have to go out in the streets and look for houses that say they're for rent on the window or something. So that was kinda fun. Other than that, I got to work on paying all the missionaries for the month. Had a lot of problems. Like I paid all the missionaries who are leaving this transfer, because they still had to pay rent and laundry and everything for the month before leaving, but apparently they didn't get paid because their two years are up! I made sure I was paying them multiple times. The site said they were all ready to pay, and I paid, and then next thing you know, none of them got money. Grrrr.... The internet is the worst invention ever sometimes.
However, in the middle of all the office stuff I had to deal with this week, we had a baptism! Jessica was baptized on Saturday, and confirmed Sunday. Woo!! I'm sure you're wondering about the problems we had that night. Well, would it surprise you if I told you it all went perfectly?!... Yes, it probably would. And it would be lying too. Hehe. No, this time, the main problem was the non-stop irreverence that we had to deal with. People out in the halls yelling, this one little kid causing all kinds of mayhem and his mom just sitting there doing nothing. So the whole time I tried very hard (and failed) to keep the reverence, but to no avail. Alas, such is life in Peru. However, the baptism happened, so, yay. I just think about all the baptisms I've been to here in Peru, and all the baptisms I've been to back home, and there is no comparison. They are so different. It makes me kind of sad. And also, I'm realizing the difference music can make to invite the Spirit. Here, nobody plays the piano (usually there isn't even a piano), there are no special musical numbers, and even when we sing hymns, nobody knows how to sing either, and the Spirit suffers. In the New Testament the Apostle Paul even mentions that hymns invite the Spirit, saying: "...be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord (Ephesians 5:18-19)." And the Lord said, "For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads (D&C 25:12)." Imagine a baptism without music. It doesn't seem right, does it? That's all of my baptisms. Music is so powerful. I love music.
Had some silly tracting experiences again. As always. There's always the classic "but nobody's here right now..." excuse, and then right as they say that someone comes out from behind them. Oops! That seriously happens almost every day. Then we had another fun one where we started talking to this old man who wanted nothing to do with us because he's 85 years old and he has so much knowledge of the gospel that it would be a waste of time to talk with two young kids like us. What could we possibly share with him that he doesn't already know?? He told us we could come back and visit if we brought our pastor. Hehe. Silly old man. We also had another old people experience one night as we were walking to an appointment. Three old ladies were walking by, and as they walked past us one of them was like "hey elders! What kinds of stupid things are you teaching tonight?!"... did that seriously happen? Those ladies were like 60 years old! I'm being seriously abused by the elderly out here.
But, y'know, we had some good tracting experiences too. Like how one day when we were just knocking a ton of doors, a.k.a. the boringest thing ever, after quite a long time of doing this, we knocked this one door, and this lady let us right in. Her name is Edith and we had an awesome visit with her and her ten year old daughter Oriana. Both of them were super attentive, and asked a lot of questions, and told us they really appreciated our visit, invited us to come back, and gave us food before we left. So awesome! They're a Catholic family but they love learning more about the gospel. Even the ten year old, who acts way older than ten. The lady told us that other people of other faiths sometimes come and teach them too, because she always lets people in because she loves learning about the gospel, but she told us that what they teach scares her, and that what we taught made her feel more comfortable. So that's awesome too. It’s so stupid to focus on the "if you don't do this, God is gonna punish you so bad!" when teaching the gospel, because the blessings you receive from obedience way outdo the punishments for disobedience. God loves us so much. He wants to bless us so badly, that often he'll even do it when we're undeserving. He never ever wants to punish us, but gave us our free will and allows us to make mistakes which lead to consequences. The gospel is such a huge source of comfort, and hope, and love for me. It should never be used to cause fear. I loved what Elder Holland said in the last General Conference about how "surely the thing God enjoys most about being God is the thrill of being merciful, especially to those who don’t expect it and often feel they don’t deserve it." Personally, I feel like I've been blessed way more than I deserve on my mission. I don't even understand why I'm receiving so many blessings when I feel like I haven't done anything to deserve them. But it just shows me how much God loves me, and how much he loves us all. Anyway, so we went back to visit Edith and Oriana a few days later and had another amazing visit. I just love how much they're involved in the lessons we teach! They have questions, and they truly enjoy learning what we're sharing. Near the end of the visit, Edith's husband (well... boyfriend I guess.) José showed up, and he's awesome too! He told us that he really appreciates that we're visiting his family and that he hopes we can come back again. Then they invited us to eat lunch with them on Sunday. And gave us food again! Haha. We've had a few really good visits with the family, and on Sunday the entire family came to church! That has never happened before on my mission! It's always been my dream to find an entire family to teach and have them come to church, but 99% of the time we're just teaching one person at a time. This family is so good! Elder Navas and I had to go out and buy mattresses for some new areas that are opening up this transfer, and José even helped us out with that. When we went to go buy the mattresses at the place he works he told us that he and his wife enjoyed church and that he's planning on going again next Sunday! He also told us about how sometimes other people of other faiths come to visit his wife, but that he hasn’t participated in the visits, because he doesn't agree with everything they teach, but that he likes it when we come to visit. I dunno, this family is just pretty awesome. We'll see what happens. =)
On Wednesday I was feeling kind of down. It was just not a good day (although I assume it was an even worse day back home :/ ). I watched somebody get robbed, I had to deal with church leaders whose power had gone to their head and just wouldn't help us or other members in any way, got told by old ladies that we're stupid, etc... I was just kind of in a "giving up hope on the human race" kind of mood. Just seeing all this bad stuff happen really got to me that day. And then it really hit me how much of a blessing this gospel has been in my life. The gospel is my number one source of hope, and happiness. I've thought multiple times after having to deal with all kinds of the stupidest things ever on my mission that if I didn't have the gospel in my life, I don't even know what I'd do, because honestly there are so many moments when just everything around me is so messed up, and literally the only source of hope I have left is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Moments when I feel like I can't depend on or trust anybody, or when I feel like the world is going downhill so fast that it's out of control and there's no point in me even trying to make a positive difference. Seriously, being on a mission, the worst the world has to offer just gets shoved in your face all the time, and it's really eye opening (being sheltered back home in Eugene with a great family, a great group of friends, a great second family of sorts in the members of the Church, and (now that I look back) relatively no real problems at all). And seeing all this stuff and having that realization sometimes just takes it’s toll on you and makes you feel pretty useless, and pretty hopeless. But then you realize how much of a blessing and huge source of hope the gospel really is. The gospel gives me a sense of hope that I could never have if I had to depend solely on the world. I know that I am a literal son of God, and that He loves me, and He takes care of me, and He wants the best for me. He has promised me that if I'm faithful and endure to the end that I will have eternal life. He has promised me that if I keep His commandments that He will open the windows of heaven and pour me out a blessing so great that I won't have room to receive it. He has promised that I can be with my family forever, and that death will only separate us for a moment. He has promised me that He will hold my hand and help me. He has promised me that if I do my best, that I will be rewarded, and that I can live forever in a state of never-ending happiness. He loves me so much that He sent his Son to come and die for me. To pay for everything I've ever done wrong, and ever will do wrong. Every mistake I've made. Every evil thought I've had. Jesus Christ willingly gave his life to allow me to live with my Father in Heaven again. Hope is believing in those promises. Trusting in God and believing that those promises will be fulfilled. It makes all the awful stuff here seem so unimportant. One of my favorite promises that I recently read took on a whole new meaning to me as I applied it to myself as a missionary: "And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life (Matthew 19:29)." Seriously, I've read that before, but I never thought about it so literally before. I gave up my house, my brothers and sisters, my parents, and everything I knew to be here, for my Father's name's sake, and just recently I read that promise in the Bible, and it's helped me a lot. Believing in these promises gives me hope that I desperately need. And hope that has helped me in during the most awful, saddest moments of my life. I dunno, I was thinking about how much of a comfort that gospel is in my life a lot that day. It’s a pretty cool thing, what I'm doing. All I want is for someone else to gain this same hope that is so precious to me. I just want everyone to have what I have.
Other highlights of the week include Hermana Yactaco making us tacos for lunch one day, running into a member from Olmos while walking down the street, running into Juan José that one awesome investigator from Olmos that thought I was from Orange and he was excited to see me, going to church on fast Sunday and having little Peter get up and share his testimony, and Maria sharing her testimony in front of the entire congregation for the first time, and meeting an old lady who told us she wanted to be baptized, and... lotsa stuff. Really, there are always good things. I also got some pretty super mail. Like a Dear Elder from Kirk! Hey Kirk, nice fake address you used so that I can't possibly respond to your letter. Although it was lolarious. Sorry that ol' Nook is being such a d-bag. Also MEGA LOLZ about the Mt Dew naming thing that went so bad. Hahahahaha. Good ol' trolls. And a pretty awesome letter from Elyse. She sent me a cool quote, a spare one of Kathy's seminary quote handout things, telling me "you never know when these might come in handy." Well, the quote was from Elder Holland. It went a little something like this:
"In the gospel of Jesus Christ you have help from both sides of the veil, and you must never forget that. When disappointment and discouragement strike--and they will--you remember and never forget that if our eyes could be opened we would see horses and chariots of fire as far as the eye can see riding at reckless speed to come to our protection. They will always be there, these armies of heaven, in defense of Abraham's seed."
Anyway I had that quote sitting out on my desk and a ton of missionaries who came into the office told me how awesome of a quote that was, and a bunch of them even copied it down to bring it with them. I went and searched for the talk that the quote came from and had that sitting on my desk too. One sister missionary saw it and started reading it, and asked me for a copy of the talk. A few days later she told me that she loved the talk so much that she read it like four times that night, and that it helped her so much. Whoa, you really never know when those handouts are gonna come in handy! Looks like it already helped a lot of people, including me. Haha. Thanks Elyse!
(Here's that talk: http://www.lds.org/liahona/1982/01/for-times-of-trouble?lang=eng&query=times+trouble+(name%3a%22Jeffrey+R.+Holland%22) )
While I'm on the subject of mail, I just wanna inform the world that I'm about nine months behind on writing people back, and there's no way I'm ever gonna catch up! Very likely I won't get to respond to everyone. I have people that I've been meaning to write forever and I just don't have time to do it. Sharing the gospel is sorta taking top priority right now... However there are some people that I would love to write (if I ever find time) that I can't write because they wrote me while they were at school and now they're no longer at school or they've moved and so I don't have their addresses and it's impossible for me to write them. But let's just say that since I left the MTC I've written like maybe five letters. Sorry! I still love you though. :)
Alright, sorry for the mega delay on this e-mail. Busiest week ever. So many problems this week. But everything is working itself out. Everything is gonna be alright. Yellowcard.
Last few comments in relation to questions you've had. Yes, I can buy peanut butter here. But only because I'm in Chiclayo and they actually have huge supermarkets n' stuff here. Outside of Chiclayo its kinda impossible to find. That one picture I sent you of my hand that I told you I'd tell you about later... Well, I'm still gonna have to tell you later, because I'm outta time. It’s not even that good of a story. I am jealous that you saw Spider-man!! And that Oz movie that's coming out. I already knew about it. Seems cool. Wanna see it. But I could go on a month-long rant about everything that's wrong with Wizard of Oz movies. After over 100 years, and like 20 film adaptations, there still doesn't exist one single Wizard of Oz movie that's faithful to the book. That upsets me. Don't get me started. Haha. Is Jacqueline driving?!?! That would be weird... What kinds of fun things could we do here in a week to ten days?... No idea… All I can think of is Machu Picchu, but that's not even in my mission. You know where there are fun things? In the United States.
Aight, I gotta get outta here. Next week should be calmer. I sure hope so! I hope you guys are doing okay. The news about Rocket was the saddest thing in the world :( All I ask is that when I get home and walk through the front door that I'm not greeted by a different dog. There are no replacements for Rocket. :/
K, well, I miss you lots! I feel like I'll be home soon anyway. But don't have too much fun until then. Plan one year of pure boring. K thanks.
Victor sent a bunch of new pictures. If you'd like to see them all just click on the slideshow above. Here are a few of them:
"I had a lot of stuff to do."