Wednesday, November 28, 2012

"I think I've gotten sick with three different things at three different points this week. With periods of feeling just fine in between each one. What gives?!"

Hello hello hello!

This has been one of the more hectic days of my entire mission. Transfers. Missionaries leaving (Problems. Two missionaries who were supposed to go back to the United States today ended up getting stuck here because their passports got sent to Trujillo by accident and they can't leave the country without those things... Going home tomorrow instead.), interviewing each missionary who's going home about their financial situation (if they have any debts or stuff). Missionaries arriving (in a couple hours). Plus monthly payments happening at the exact same time (still working on them). And my regular weekly financial report I have to do every Monday (I'm having a lot of problems with that this week. Lots of money that was supposed to get sent to the mission account never showed up. Basically, the equivalent of 2,000 dollars that belong to the mission is missing). Plus not feeling too hot health-wise. Plus I'm tired and I want a rest!! I just have a little bit of time to kill right now because Elder Hatch has to update the IMOS (Internet Mission Office System) page we use to run the mission and it takes about and hour and a half and basically I've done all I can do for now until that gets updated. So I'm just waiting. Thought I'd send you guys an e-mail or something. I am tired, and stressed.

But, this week was a good week!... Sort of. Well, honestly, not really that good. I think I've gotten sick with three different things at three different points this week. With periods of feeling just fine in between each one. What gives?! We've all been really busy this week too. Hardly any proselyting at all. However, the big highlight of the week was Piter's (yes, that's the real way his name is spelled) baptism! Piter got baptized on Saturday, and so did another kid who the other missionaries taught named Jeffrey (probably not how you spell that name. I don't know with all of these English names spelled in Spanish). One big first for me this week was that I did my first baptismal interview (just wondering how many times I can use parenthesis in this e-mail...)! For Jeffrey. A lil' kid, so not too intimidating. Seriously, I don't know what I'd do if I was interviewing an adult and all the sudden they just started confessing to me their worst sins. Kids are a pretty safe interview. It went really well too. I did what I could to make it less of an interview and more of a conversation/lesson with Jeffrey. He's a pretty awesome kid. Gave good answers. Knows his stuff. Has a lot of faith for a kid. I helped him understand a few things that weren't so clear to him. Read some scriptures. Signed his baptismal record. Good to go! It was a neat experience.

So, this week we went to go visit Piter again, and then just in the middle of the lesson, completely randomly, he's like "I have a question... who is going to baptize me?" We told him that it was really up to him and his family, as long as the person is a priesthood holder. We asked him who he wanted to baptize him, and he was like "Elder Hemsley!" Haha. Alright! I haven't baptized in a while. But that made me happy. The actual baptism was kind of hectic. But I guess that's just expected. It was super stressful actually, but in the end it all turned out well. Piter is such a champ! He's always been so excited about getting baptized, and he was so ready. But, when we actually got in the font, and realized that the water is a bit colder than we were expecting (okay, it wasn't really that cold to me. But to a Peruvian, it was freezing, and possibly life-threatening) he turned to me and was like "Elder Hemsley, no puedo. No puedo!" I can't do it! I was just like "si, puede." Yes, you can. It'll be quick! And with that he calmly faced his fate, and went under the water, possibly never to return. One second later, he came back out. Baptized. Freezing. Haha. But he's honestly one of the most amazing people I've met on my mission. The coolest kid!

On Sunday he got confirmed. The bishop invited Piter to come up to the front for the confirmation, and then caught us by surprise by asking us missionaries to confirm him. So, we went up there, and I got to confirm Piter too. Pretty cool. That meeting was also the primary program, and Piter gave a short talk and it was pretty awesome. The only dumb thing was that the microphone wasn't working, and so basically we couldn't hear anything because little kids are shy and do not speak loudly at the pulpit. It was kind of sad honestly. But whatever.

Piter's seven-year old cousin Karina came to his baptism, and at the end I asked her what she thought of it. She told me that she really liked it. I asked her what her favorite part was, and she told me it was the part when I baptized him "in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost," and she liked that part because she's happy that her cousin received blessings from Jesus. She told me that she's turning eight in July and that she wants to be baptized too. Pretty awesome. Haha.

Jeffrey got baptized before Piter, and his baptism was pretty great too. The assistants also had a baptism in their area. So much for the idea that the office elders don't ever baptize anybody! Saturday marks the fifth, sixth, and seventh baptisms we've had in the office since I got here. We're doin' good! And more on the way too.

The whole getting sick multiple times this week was a bit of a bummer. Y'know, I'm getting real sick of getting sick. It’s not that I wish my mission was already over by any means, but, I'm really starting to wish that I was at least serving my mission in the United States instead of here, purely for health reasons (well, okay, actually a lot of reasons. But health currently being the main one). Living is a continuous state of unhealthiness is probably one of the worst things ever. I need to get back to my American diet of cheeseburgers and Mountain Dew to regain my long-lost perfect health.

Speaking of America, and stereotypes (because I was totally talking about stereotypes), my whole life I always bought into the whole "Americans are the fattest people in the world" stereotype because all we eat about 700 cheeseburgers every day and all of our food is fake and we hate to exercise 'n stuff like that. Well, that stereotype is wrong. Because whoever thinks that's true has never been to Peru. Peru is by far a fatter country than the United States. By far. Hmm, turns out chicken and rice isn't the healthiest diet in the world.

Hmm... what else. Oh yeah, monthly payments. Those are fun! NOT. Especially when they happen at the same time as transfers. And because of the timing, this month was the first month I've ever had to come into the office on Sunday to do it. Yep, yesterday I worked on the Sabbath day. Monthly payments. Always a fun time. I've only got two more left supposedly. Unless President wants to keep me here a really long time. Which is also possible. But more likely than not, I'll only have to do it twice more. The second time being me teaching the new financial secretary how to do it. I'm not in a big hurry to get out of the office though. I do enjoy it here. Now I'm just worried about what I'm gonna have to do at the end of the year... No idea.

Oh yeah! And learned some cool news from Pacasmayo today! Elder Palacios is one of the elders who went home today, and he finished his mission in Pacasmayo. He was telling me about how Mama Nena and Papi Alberto still miss and talk about "Elder Victor" and always talk about how I was always so thankful to them and how I always ate a ton of food. Haha. I did actually eat a lot more back than. I think that was before my rice tanks overflowed in my stomach. So I started asking him some stuff. I asked him about Juan Piedra, who got baptized when Elder Choc and I were serving together. Elder Palacios told me that Juan is super active in the church and he's basically one of the most faithful members of the branch! He's a counselor in the elders quorum now. Juan doesn't even live in Pacasmayo, he lives in another little town outside of Pacasmayo called Jequetepeque, but Elder Palacios told me that he comes to Pacasmayo basically every day to go visit members and give service 'n stuff. He's always volunteering to help serve! He told me that Juan has been preparing to go to the temple to get sealed to his wife in a few months, and that they're both super excited about it!! Ahh, coolest news!! He told me that Juan's wife's cousin also recently got baptized, which is big news because apparently she was "super Catholic" before. Wow wow wow! Just hearing all that great news about Juan and his family and his plans to be sealed in the temple soon made me so happy. Honestly, probably the best news I've heard since I've been out here. Elder Palacios said "honestly, I think that Juan should be the branch president." Juan Piedra is an amazing person, and it was a huge blessing to be able to get to know him and to help him progress in his faith and understanding of the Gospel with Elder Choc. I wish I could go back and visit!! Seriously, if I ever get discouraged in my mission, or feel like I'm not having much success or whatever, all I have to do is think about Juan Piedra, and I realize that it's all been more than worth it.

Anyway, I didn't get any mail from you guys this week. Except for the missing letter from Mom that didn't show up last week. So, if you asked me any questions I can't answer them yet and I can't comment on all the cool stuff you usually tell me about.

This e-mail is a little shorter than normal, but that's because it’s late and we're still busy and I gotta go do stuff. Transfers are pretty hectic. Fun though. Sort of. The best part is getting to eat dinner at the mission home every time with the new missionaries. Lookin' forward to dinner tonight. Gotta admit, the office does have it's perks. Ha.

Anyways, I gotta get going. I feel like I'm forgetting about stuff that I wanted to tell you, but I suppose if I remember it than I can just tell you next week instead.

Don't grow up too much more! Seriously, don't. You're all super old now in all the photos you send me. Everyone. Old.


-Elder Hemsley

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

"I took the biggest leap of faith in my life making the choice to do this (serve a mission). I had no idea what to expect. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. But something inside me gently pushed me in the right direction, helped me take this leap of faith, and now here I am, sitting here in unbelief at how much my life has been blessed."

Oh man, I'm tired. I'm just so tired all the time. Here in the office, it’s not a physical tiredness, but a mental one. It wears me out sometimes! I like it here a lot, but a part of me can't wait to go back to normal proselyting 24/7. I had a good week though, tiredness aside. Let's see what I can remember...

Well, something cool that I forgot to tell you last week was that just as I started writing my last e-mail to you guys, someone rang the office doorbell (I just realized how weird it is to have a doorbell in Peru...). Elder Cabrera went to go answer it, and then came back telling me that a Brother William was here to see me from Olmos. Whoa are you serious?! So, my ol' pal William stopped by to visit me! He was getting his laptop fixed in Chiclayo, and he knew I was in the office now so he asked some members here where the office was so he could see if he could find me. He got lucky, because we're not normally here on Mondays in the morning! So we got to talk a bit and he told me about Olmos and how everything's going out there. Basically it sounds like everything is awesome back in Olmos! Silvia and Edwin are still way active in the church. Edwin's going to go to the temple on Saturday with the district! So cool!! Going to the temple is a big deal here, because it's soo far away. Jeez, and I used to complain about having to drive two hours to get to the temple, when people in Utah basically each have their own personal temple in their backyard (Okay, a little bit of an exaggeration... hehe. But come on, Provo's gonna have two temples. No fair!). William also told me that there are now like five guys in the branch who are preparing to serve missions, including himself, and Edwin (who's gotta wait a year, but still!). And then he told me that just the day before he submitted his mission papers and is now waiting for his mission call!! No way!! Also one guy who's about our age who had no desires to serve a mission when I was there all the sudden got stoked on the idea and is getting ready to go now. Church attendance is higher, everything's lookin' great back in Olmos. And one of the coolest things, one of the investigators of Elder Lobato and mine got baptized!! A girl named Ulyssa, who we visited a few times, and we were just super sure she was gonna progress so fast and get baptized, but then her dad who doesn't like the church told us she couldn't go to church anymore and couldn't visit with us either. So, we were kinda forced to stop visiting her. But apparently she just got baptized a couple weeks ago! Too cool!! It was way fun to see and talk to William again. I miss Olmos! I wanna go back!!

“Visit from William!”

Monday afternoon President and Sister Risso and the assistants got back from Jaén, and on Tuesday President and Sister Risso brought me a chocolate cake to the office for my birthday. Mmmm... No cake in the face this time either. That was fun! I also got some little presents from Hermana Yataco's daughters and a card from their family and the other missionaries. Pretty awesome. :)

This week we went to go have a Family Home Evening with Peter's family. This kid never ceases to amaze me! He conducted the FHE (FHE's are a lot more formal here. Something I'm not sure I like. Actually, I don't like it.), and picked the hymns. While all of us were singing, reading out of our hymn books, Peter already had all the songs memorized and didn't even open his book. He also told us that he was giving a talk in primary on Sunday and that he was preparing for that. I've never seen a little kid--or anyone really--who's been so prepared to accept the gospel like this! We went back to visit him again later in the week and asked him how he was doing with his talk. He said they gave him two scriptures to base his talk on. We asked him what they were, and instead of telling us, he recited the scriptures to us from memory. And one of them was like six verses long! Haha, he's the coolest kid. If everything works out with his family's schedule, he's gonna get baptized on Saturday!

Oh yeah, and this week was the one-year mark in the mission field! November 15th was when I left the MTC and flew out here to Chiclayo. Pretty neat! I don't know how time has flown like it has. When I started my mission, two years seemed like it was going to last an eternity. 24 months is a long time!! But, it's gone unbelievably fast and I seriously feel like I'm going to be home in no time. Time is a weird thing.

Had some fun times this week. A lot of laughing. A lot of fun times with the other missionaries I live with. I feel so lucky that I get to live with all these guys. It’s so different than just living alone with your companion. It's a lot more fun. This week we had a ward mission night activity (Okay, do those even exist back home? Because when I got here and heard about these "noches misionales" or "mission nights" I had no idea what they were talking about). Elder Perea and I with Elder Cabrera and Elder Samamé threw it together super last second but it turned out pretty fun for the members. Started out by watching a couple of short videos. That part was probably a little too boring for everyone. But then I decided I had to save the day and went way out of my comfort zone to bring some energy to the activity and make people laugh. I'm kind of surprised I was able to make myself do that. From there us missionaries acted out a short skit that was purely to entertain (the kids were all cracking up) and then we finished it off by playing some games with everyone. The members had fun. It turned out well!

Anyways I was really excited about getting your letters this week. When they finally came, I was disappointed... Know why? Because they didn't all come! I didn't get a letter from Mom!! Why why why!?!?!?!?! Though, nobody said in their letters "Uh Victor, bad news, Mom died," so I'm at least fairly confident that that's not the reason. But that was a bummer. But the rest of the letters were awesome as usual. This week I even got a nice birthday card from the Swensons! So, that was awesome. And last week I complained to you guys about not ever telling me that Star Wars 7 was announced, but it's a-okay because Aunt Kim made sure to pass the news along to me in the card. STAR WARS!!

I liked hearing about the Guatemala trip from Dad. It sounded like it was really fun! And the whole price negotiating thing happens here too. Except I don't really like to do it. I miss everything having a non-negotiable set price. Because here, from my experience, it's not really super true that you can negotiate to get a better price. In my experience, the people will initially offer to sell you something for way more than it's worth, and then you can negotiate with them to get it down to the normal price that it should be. Getting a good deal has not happened too often to me. And plus, the people see me, a gringo, and automatically bump up the price. Dumb. It was the worst when Elder Despain was my companion. We were two North Americans together, but it seemed like the people just saw us as giant dollar signs sometimes. When Elder Despain got transferred and Elder Choc came along, that didn't happen quite as often. But still, usually I'll always have my Latin companions flag down taxis and stuff because if I do it then it's like an automatic extra sol we have to pay.

It's safe to say that I would never even consider a career in accounting after this. Financial Secretary my butt! I don't hate what I do, but it's definitely not something I would ever pursue, or ever want to do again. I'm gonna work at Game Crazy... oh wait, Game Crazy got dragged to an early grave with Hollywood Video :(

Yeah, I am taking multi-vitamins that you sent me. I hope they're helping. Considering how not-great I always feel, I'd hate to imagine how I'd be feeling if I wasn't taking the vitamins. Yikes. I am just so sick of rice!!!

Jacqueline's seeing a ton of movies these days. She's always telling me about the movies she saw. Not fair! Jack, do you still have that list of movies we have to watch when I get back? Keep it up-to-date! The other day I was thinking of some movie, and I don't even remember what it was, but all I know is that every time I thought about it I had to try really hard not to laugh out loud. Don't forget about the funny ones!

Bryn's doing awesome in school these days. That is the miracle of Classic South. That's what happened to me! My grades got so much better! Woo! Honestly every time you tell me about high school it makes me miss high school a lot. And I miss college too. But I don't miss studying, or homework. So... yeah. (But I guess that's why I liked senior year so much, because I barely had homework and barely had to study because of it.)

Sam likes football too much. Jeez Sam why don't you just play a video game or something?! Why don't you just sit at home and eat chips and watch TV all day?! Why don't you do something productive like play all the way through Ocarina of Time in one day, or make a blog where you post really in-depth theories about Star Wars and what "bringing balance to the Force" actually means, or about how Leia tells Luke that she remembers her real mother even though her mother died like 30 seconds after she was born? Think of all the productive things you could do! Like buy one can of every flavor of Mountain Dew and mix them all together and see what it tastes like. Haha. These are all great ideas that now that I've suggested them to you I want to do them. 

Mom, I hope I get whatever you wrote in the next batch of letters. They normally come on Friday or Saturday.

K well I'm gonna go be a financial secretary and do some money stuff. I think I'll leave you with one of this week's journal entries. Most nights I just feel worn out and even though I have stuff I want to write about I barely write anything because I'm tired. But then there are other random nights where I just write a ton. But mostly not. Anyway, here goes:


Boring!! Long office day. Had computer issues. Bleh.

Today is my one-year mark in the mission field! One year ago today I left the MTC, arrived here in Chiclayo, saw mototaxis for the first time in my life, got my first companion, took a two hour bus ride at night to my first area, got to Pacasmayo, took my first mototaxi, got to our room, there was no electricity, couldn't see a thing, did a quick planning session with a flashlight, tried to write in my journal, and went to sleep, hours away from waking up to experience the biggest culture shock of my life. I still remember how I felt my first few days and weeks in Pacasmayo. I couldn't believe that a place like that really existed. I was totally blown away. I couldn't believe it was real life. I still feel like that sometimes. Actually, I still feel like that a lot. I can't believe that this is really happening. I can't believe that I left home at 19 to go live in Peru without my family. I can't believe I'm here right now, working in an office in Chiclayo as a financial secretary for a major organization in a different language. For free. I can't believe I'm here at all. I've thought about that a lot since I've started the mission. I can't even believe I'm doing this. Me. The lazy kid who doesn't like to be away from home for long periods of time. The kid who loves music, and video games, and wasting time. The kid who loves being with my family. The kid who loves being irreverent and obnoxious with my friends. The kid who didn't try hard in school. The kid who never wanted to go to any church activities, and never wanted to read his scriptures. I feel like I know myself pretty well, and just the fact that I'm here, in some weird way, is a huge testimony builder to me. Because I know myself, and I know that this is so ridiculously far off from anything I would ever decide to do... Yet for some reason I decided to do it. Being a missionary conflicts with every single one of my interests. There is nothing that a missionary does that I enjoyed doing before my mission. Going on a mission meant giving up everything I love, and start doing things I don't love, for two years. But I wasn't forced to come here. I was never once told that I had to go on a mission. Serving a mission conflicts with every interest I have and contradicts the way I was living my life and would have been happy continuing to live my life, yet, for some reason, I still decided to do it. And that is sort of a miracle to me; because I know me, and I know that when something is so drastically different from what I like, and so far out of my comfort zone, I will look for every reason not to do it. You could give me all the reasons in the world for why I should do it, but I still won't want to, and I will fight it. But I didn't fight this. There was something different about this decision. There was something more powerful than just "good reasons" or "convincing arguments" for why I should do this. Something more certain. I just knew this was something I needed to do (which, under normal circumstances, even that, knowing that I need to do something, isn't enough to convince me to do it). I knew it meant putting everything that I love away for a long time, and that I likely won't even like doing it. But there was something telling me that it was something I needed to do. Something more powerful than the persuasion of a parent or a church leader; something more certain. I just knew. I took the biggest leap of faith in my life making the choice to do this. I had no idea what to expect. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. But something inside me gently pushed me in the right direction, helped me take this leap of faith, and now here I am, sitting here in unbelief at how much my life has been blessed. I never expected things to be like this. I never thought things could be like this.

Alright, see you guys! I miss you a ton! Am I really for real officially an adult now? Because that's kind of gross. I don't wanna grow up! I'm a Toys R Us kid! Especially the part of Toys R Us that sells the Legos. Star Wars Legos. I'm gonna live life Peter Pan style.


-Elder Hemsley

Friday, November 16, 2012

Birthday Celebration in Peru! Victor turns 21!

Yo familia. Remember how I said a few weeks back that I missed the rain? Well, it rained this past week. Well, I'm not sure I can even call it rain. It was more like it sprinkled a little bit. Basically  you could walk around in it and go back inside and you'd still be dry. However, all it took was one day of not-even-real-rain to remind me that I do not actually like rain at all. No siree Bob. The weather, unlike almost anything else, has an extremely powerful affect on my mood, and rainy, cloudy days are more depressing and sleepy days than the rest. That's why I didn't used to like rain (well, that, and the getting wet and muddy when you walk outside part), and that's why I still don't like rain. I don't miss rain. I take it back. I don't miss it!

Well, let's see what else happened this week. In case you forgot, it was my birthday. But some other stuff happened before that.

Last week I told you that I was busy working on a big ol' PowerPoint presentation for the zone leaders council (I really don't know if they call them "zone leaders councils" in English, but that's what the literal translation is. To me, it just sounds really Star Warsy). Got that done. Tuesday was the meeting. My presentation went pretty well I think. But I guess I'll find out just how well it went when I start to see how the zone leaders are now using their zone funds. The monthly ZL councils are always pretty awesome. Even though I'm not a ZL, I always really like them and come out of them more excited to be a missionary. President Risso always has the coolest talks and everyone always has great ideas to share in those meetings. I feel like I learn a lot. This time, President Risso was talking about how in this mission, in this culture, the missionaries have to do a lot of things that normal missionaries should never have to do, because nobody else does them. We have to take responsibility for lots of things that we are not responsible for, because those who are responsible for them don't take responsibility. Sometimes that's really frustrating to me. But, it's just how it is, and we gotta deal with it. Eh, still trying to work on that whole patience thing. It was a cool meeting though. It's definitely a privilege to be able to be there every month even though I'm not a zone leader.

Speaking of impatience, even though last week our bishop told Peter that we'd set a baptismal date for him this Sunday, Elder Perea and I couldn't wait that long and went to visit him on Tuesday and set a date for him! I can't say enough good things about Peter. He basically already knows all the articles of faith and remembers so many Book of Mormon stories. He's so ready! He's the best. We have a lot of really great people we're visiting right now. Dennis and Gustavo are still excited to get baptized too. Though we might have to push the date back a bit because Gustavo has been sick and we haven't been able to see much of him. Dennis however is reading everything we give to him, and he remembers it all. We gave him a Restoration pamphlet one day, and we we're going to teach him about the restoration in more detail in our next visit. Well, we showed up to the next visit, asked him if he read, and he basically taught us the entire lesson in a short summary. Haha. Pretty cool guy. And there's this less active family we're visiting who want to get active and come to church and come to activities and have FHEs in their home, and they have a nine year old son named Manuel who is not baptized who wants to get baptized. We got lots to do!

One of the weirdest, yet coolest experiences of my mission happened this past week. We finally got to go visit the Buddhist lady again this week. Her name is Marcela. But, it wasn't a normal visit. She invited us to her home where they were having one of their Buddhist meeting things. Yeah, sounds good to me. So, we show up, and her son answers the door and lets us in. He takes us upstairs, and Marcela and a few other people are up there praying together. Buddhist style. It was like this Japanese chant that they all recited in unison, but it totally had this rhythm to it and it was almost musical. We stood there patiently in the back waiting for them to finish. The prayer went on for like 15 minutes. It sounded almost creepy, but kind of cool at the same time. To me it was just so different than anything else I've seen in Peru that I thought it was fascinating. My companion later told me he thought it was too weird and he felt uncomfortable. I thought it was neat. After the 15 minute Japanese musical prayer ended, Marcela got up and greeted us and so did the rest of them. They're all super nice people. Then we all went downstairs to watch what I basically liken to a Buddhist version of General Conference. It was this like 20 minute talk from the president of the Buddhist organization (I really don't know what I'm talking about) and it was filmed in Tokyo or something in one of the main Buddhist temples. The president was a sweet old man who wore his white shirt and tie and basically just reminded me exactly of the presidents of our church. Except he spoke Japanese. We watched his Japanese talk with Spanish subtitles, which sort of made it pretty hard for me to follow, but it was kind of cool. After it ended the people shared a bunch of their ideas, and we chatted a bit. They closed the meeting with a song and a prayer (not as long as the first prayer). We didn't really teach, because it was their meeting, but we did share a little bit about what we believe and how it complements their Buddhist beliefs. It was pretty cool. They were all really happy that we were there and super friendly to us. I thought it was probably one of the coolest things I've been able to do on the mission. Something so different from the normal routine. Just a big ol' learning experience, seeing who these people are, how they live, and what they believe. I liked it a whole lot. Something I will always remember.

Since our ward was merged with another ward a few weeks back, we now share our area with the elders who were serving in that other ward. Our new combined area is gigantic, and us office elders now get to share it. It's kind of cool to be honest. I like to think we're the most united district in the mission. Haha. We share a room, we share the office, we share a ward, we share an area, and we even almost to a point share investigators. Sometimes because we're in the office, one of us might have to stay late working on something, and so a lot of times we go on splits so that two of us can stay here finishing up the work while the other two go out and teach. It's been kind of a fun experience. I enjoy it. It's fun to get to go out and teach with the other elders sometimes too.

There are some things that I just don't get though. Ever since I started the mission, so often when we talk to somebody about Adam and Eve and their fall, people just go nuts on this one belief that I just do not understand at all. Everyone knows that Adam and Eve lived in the garden of Eden and it was basically a paradise and they lived in God's presence. Then they sinned, and they got booted. That's the super short version. All Christians pretty much agree on that. However, the part I don't understand, is how almost everyone we talk to seems to think that Adam and Eve's fall was not a part of God's plan, and that Satan, by tempting Adam and Eve, basically screwed up everything God had planned out. So many people have flat out told us "God didn't count on Adam and Eve sinning. He wanted them to remain perfect and have perfect children who would live in paradise forever." Basically, everyone is telling us that God, a perfect being, messed up. In his infinite knowledge, He overlooked a major flaw in His plan. He created the world, and everything in it, He sent Adam and Eve there, and the plan was that they would be perfect beings, but then Satan came along, found a hole in God's supposedly fool-proof plan, and ruined everything. Right. Really? God's plan was that easy to mess up? I just don't get how everyone can agree that God is a perfect being, but at the same time believe that His plan was imperfect, and ruined, and that now because of that unexpected mistake God had to try to fix what had gone wrong which is why he sent Jesus Christ to the world to save us. Adam and Eve were a failed experiment, and Jesus Christ is the backup plan to try to make everything right again. That doesn't make sense. That doesn't add up. I don't know if this is a universal Christian belief, or just a Peruvian belief, but seriously almost everyone tells us that Adam and Eve ruined history and in turn made our lives miserable. Come on, if it wasn't Eve who had disobeyed first, it would have been you. It would have been me. None of us are innocent of sin. If not Eve, if not Adam, it would have been you. Don't blame them for making one mistake when you've made and will continue to make millions. We're not perfect, and they weren't either. People are really stubborn about this belief however. They just want to blame everything wrong with their lives on Adam and Eve and God's plan that didn't quite end up working out the way He wanted. If God really didn't want Adam and Eve to eat the fruit, then why did he even create the tree? I can't believe that during the creation God was like "I'm going to make this perfect world, but also put this tree in it that might destroy everything I've done if someone eats its fruit. I sure hope that doesn't happen!" Nah, it doesn't make sense. Adam and Eve started learning, and started progressing after eating the fruit. Before they ate it, they lived in a state of innocence, not knowing right from wrong. They didn't even realize that they were naked. They were like little children. Like babies. After disobeying, they learned that consequences follow disobedience, and they realized that consequences suck and that it really is better to be obedient, and they started learning to choose between good and evil, and started progressing. They started having children. And now, thanks to them, here we are today, learning, progressing. I don't get it. I just know that I'm so thankful to not have to live with so much doubt like that. So many people tell us of the faith they have, but then they tell us about all these doubts they have and all the things that don't make sense to them about what they've been taught. I just feel blessed to have this gospel that clears up those doubts and strengthens my faith. Ever since I started the mission I've always thought that if all of this was a lie, that with all of the studying I've been doing, reading the scriptures, listening to the prophets, praying and testing promises, etc... If all of this was a lie, then the more I study it the more obvious it should become that it's a lie. However, the opposite is happening. The more I study, the more I learn, the more sense everything makes. Things I didn't understand before now make sense. All of the little holes in my testimony have been or are being filled. All of the flaws in God's plan turn out to not be flaws after all. Everything just makes sense. I feel safe knowing that God has a plan for us, and contrary to what people here seem to believe, it is in fact a perfect plan.

Anyway, Saturday. Saturday was my birthday. It was a lot better than my last birthday! Started out getting a call from the assistants (who are with President Risso in Jaén right now. One of the more distant zones in the mission.) wishing me a happy birthday and singing to me. Haha. Then, as we were on our way to breakfast, President Risso and Sister Risso called to wish me a happy birthday too. We got to eat breakfast with the Yatacos. Hermana Yataco made us pancakes. Well, they were more like crepes. They were pretty delish. My birthday treat. Then she gave me a muffin with the most gigantic ridiculous "candle" ever on it that was more of a firework that was basically shooting out a giant flame of fire and sparks. It was silly. After that we went to the office for a little while before heading back over there for lunch. Tacos!!! We got to eat some delicious tacos. So good! I think I told you before that it was also this other girl's birthday, Rosmery, and Hermana Yataco brought us out our birthday cake. They sang to us individually, and then it was cake time. You know what that means. Gotta bite that cake. First, it was Rosmery's turn. She leaned in to bite it, and obviously got cake smashed in her face. Not too bad though. Next, my turn. Elder Samamé grabbed the cake, and I knew I was done for. However, I didn't expect that I wouldn't even get to attempt to bite the cake. I didn't even lean in, and Samamé just shoved the cake in my face. Are you serious?! That's not fair!! So we got some good photos. We all lined up for a group photo with the cake all over my face. As I was standing there, I realized that the cake was now in my hands, and that Elder Samamé was standing right now to me. Almost without thinking, I shoved the cake in his face. Hehehehe. That's how it should be! Good times. Good times. I didn't actually end up getting egged. Thank goodness. I think I had made a big enough deal about how evil egging people is on all the past birthdays. Phew! Overall, a pretty good birthday. I opened up the other package. I am currently enjoying the candy. Carmel Apple Pops are soo good!!!! Thank you thank you!! And I always love the photos. Read Grandma and Grandpa's card too which made me happy. It was a good day. Hermana Yataco has better photos than I do, so maybe tomorrow or something I'll get them from her and send them to you guys.

However, something completely unexpected and awesome also happened that day. Elder Cabrera and I were talking about some of the dumb Mormon movies like the Singles Ward and Sons of Provo 'n stuff. So, with a free moment I had (I almost never seem to have those) I got on the computer to look up something about some Mormon movies. What better site to go to for movie info than IMDB, right? So I went to, and something grabbed my eye just as I was about to hit the search button... It was an article on the front page announcing who the writer is going to be for Star Wars episode 7. WHOA. HOLD ON. JUST ONE FREAKING SECOND. STAR WARS EPISODE SEVEN?!?!?!?!! ARE YOU SERIOUS?!!?!? I don't know when Star Wars 7 got announced, but nobody ever told me about it!!! THIS IS THE BEST NEWS OF MY LIFE!!!!1!!1!1!1!1111 Best accidental birthday present ever!!!! I didn't investigate any further, but I sure wanted to. STAR WARS!!!!! I always thought this would happen eventually, but I didn't think it would happen this soon. Everyone in the world on the internet was always like "no way, it's for sure never happening ever. There will never be another Star Wars movie." Even George Lucas has said that multiple times. But I was always stubborn and could never really accept that idea. Now it’s happening! In yo' face, internet! Anyway I am way ridiculously happy and basically in shock and awe at the news. The fact that I learned about it on my birthday was too perfect.

So, speaking of Star Wars, reading your e-mail about how you're fine and you didn't die in the Guatemala earthquake made me happy. Then when it got to the photos, the first one was captioned "Yes, we were here and took this picture with our own camera.  Do you recognize it?!" It took me like 0.3222867 seconds (well, actually I had to wait like two minutes for it to load...) to realize that HOLY CRAP MOM AND DAD WENT TO A PLANET FROM STAR WARS!!!! Seriously?!! Yes I recognize that place!! The photo is like an exact shot from A New Hope. Yavin 4, duh. You went to Yavin 4. THAT IS SO NOT FAIR!!! I was already jealous that you went to Guatemala without me, but now I'm like infinity times more jealous than before.

The picture from Star Wars.

The picture Mom and Dad took.

Okay, enough Star Wars. (there's no such thing as enough Star Wars!)

It looks like your trip was pretty awesome, even aside from being in real life Star Wars land. I wish I could have been there! There are some ruins in Peru but they're not nearly as cool. Remember that photo I sent a really long time ago about that ancient city we went to that is now basically just piles of dirt? That's how all the ruins are here, because in Peru, you don't use cement. You don't use stones. You build with mud. Mud does not last long. The ruins here are really just gigantic piles of mud. Not that cool. You got to eat beans and rice. Mmm!! Actually, beans and rice is something I hardly ever eat. Rice always, beans not so common. Chicken and rice. You went to the temple, no fair, went to McDonald's, no fair, went to some other cool places, no fair. The Waters of Mormon? Neato. You know one of my favorite scriptures is Mosiah 18:30. It goes like this: "And now it came to pass that all this was done in Mormon, yea, by the waters of Mormon, in the forest that was near the waters of Mormon; yea, the place of Mormon, the waters of Mormon, the forest of Mormon, how beautiful are they to the eyes of them who there came to the knowledge of their Redeemer; yea, and how blessed are they, for they shall sing to his praise forever." That is one of my favorite scriptures purely because I think it is so ridiculously repetitive and it makes me laugh. How many times can you say the word "Mormon" in one verse?! That's a great verse to share with people who don't know anything about the church or the Book of Mormon and think we worship Mormon or something. Nuh-uh! Read this verse to see what we really believe!... oh, wait, yeah, I guess Mormon really is all it talks about after all... I'm excited to hear more about your trip in your next letters.

Driving sounds super dangerous there. However, I doubt it can get much worse than it is here. I am afraid I will die any time I get in a taxi, or even any time I cross the street. There are no rules here as far as traffic goes. Well, I'm sure there are. I'm sure there are all the same rules as back home. They have all the same street signs and street markings. The difference is that nobody follows them. It’s a free for all in the streets! Do whatever you want! Four cars can drive side-by-side on a two-lane street. I've seen two dogs get nailed by cars since I've been in Peru. Both of them got up and ran off afterwards, but I'm sure that hurt pretty darn bad. I've almost been run over multiple times. It's super scary. There are crosswalks, but they don't help at all. Cars do not ever stop to let someone cross the street. Never. And if you're crossing the street, and you're in the middle of the street, and a car comes, it won't stop for you. Most of the times when you cross the street you get stuck in the middle of the street with traffic flying by on both sides of you missing you by inches, and you just have to wait for a break so that you can finally make it all the way across. It's so dangerous!! I'm very thankful that we are not allowed to drive in this mission. I would die, and I would kill many people in the process. Yikes.

Well, I'm gonna go try to enjoy a bit of p-day. We don't really get too many p-days here. I don't really mind that much. The main thing I care about on p-days is writing you guys. So as long as I get to do that, I'm pretty much fine. But I'm gonna try and get a little fun in before I gotta get right back to work. I miss you a ton like always! I had weird homesick dreams this week where I was with you guys. I also had a dream where I finished my mission but for some reason instead of going home, I went to Quebec, Canada, and even though I wasn't at home, I was just so overwhelmingly happy, because Canada (even though in my dream it was super different than in real life) is a lot more comfortable than Peru. Y'know, first world living conditions 'n stuff. It was cozy. Stay super. Bryn, in her super busy stressfulness and jealousy that Mom and Dad went to Guat without us, told me "Eugene is not my favorite place in the world right now." Eugene is my favorite place in the world right now!! I love it!!! Leave it to the mission to make you realize your life is actually pretty close to perfect. I am happy :)

Until next week. Can't wait to hear from you again!! I'll send some photos when I get them. Buh-bye!!


Victor sent a bunch of new pictures that you can see by clicking the slideshow at the top of this blog.  Here are a few of our favorites:

"The Cake."

"Hey there flames."

"I knew what was coming..."

"Are you serious...?" 
(Getting your face smashed into your cake is a Peruvian tradition. And then everyone eats the cake...)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

"I don't always love the mission, and I don't always love my companion, and I don't love working hard, but the things I've learned and the experiences I've had and the countless blessings I've received are priceless."

Dude dude dude it's November my birthday is this week duuuuuuude!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hello family who is currently scattered all over the world. My family is currently in three different countries. Wat. Kinda neato that you guys are in Guatemala right now. I assume Guatemala City is a lot different than Chiclayo. I looked up some pictures and it looks like it's a little closer to what home is like than this place is. But at the same time I'm sure there are plenty of similarities and you're at least getting a hint of what my life has been like for the past year, and getting a feel for Latin American culture. All I've really learned about Guatemala is that Guatemalans shower differently than the rest of the world. Yes, that is weird. No, I haven't watched any of my three Guatemalan companions take a shower, but all three of them have turned the water on and off a million times during their showers, while every other companion from every other country showers normal with the water running the entire time. I dunno what goes on in there, but it involves a lot of turning the water on and off. Haha. Maybe Mom knows something about that. That's about all I know about Guatemalan culture. And apparently "Guatemalan Time" isn't as bad as "Peruvian Time," but it's still an issue. Sometimes my companions ask me "if Peruvian Time is like this, than what would United States Time be?" and I'm like "United States Time would mean showing up ten minutes early to something to make sure that it can start exactly on time." Hehe. Oh how I miss being able to work with a functioning schedule.

Anyway I guess this past week was Halloween. Wanna know what Halloween is like here? I wasn't really sure what to expect, because they have been selling Halloween candy 'n stuff at the stores. But then Halloween rolled along, and... nothing. Nothing happens on Halloween. My journal explains it well:


Happy Halloween! There's no light, no candy, no food, no hot water, no nuthin'! Worst Halloween. I'm hungry. The only food I have needs electricity to prepare. Unless I want to eat sandwich bread or hot dog buns for dinner. Bleh.

Lots of office today. We made this new schedule for what times the zone leaders need to come by. The problem is, it’s really hard to have a working schedule in a culture where nobody lives by a schedule. Not seein' a lot of success.

Writing without electricity takes too much effort. I'm sleepy.

Lolz. This week we continued to live a few nights without electricity. But it looks like it's come back for good now. Hopefully!

But Halloween has passed, which means my birthday is comin' right up! The other day I realized my birthday is going to fall on a Saturday this year... When I realized that I pretty much wanted to shove my face in the paper shredder, because SATURDAY = EATING LUNCH WITH MEMBERS (meaning he often gets sick after eating at member’s homes). NOOOOOOooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I already had one bad birthday in the mission (well, it wasn't really bad, it’s just that literally nothing happened.) and I'm not about to let that turn into two bad birthdays. So, I made the necessary arrangements and this Saturday we're not eating with members and we're going to eat with Mami Yataco instead, because she's the best and her food is some of the only food I feel safe eating in Peru. She's going to make me tacos! Woo! Pretty much copying Bryn's birthday. Hermana Yataco is really just the nicest person in the entire world I think. She asked me what I wanted her to get me for my birthday. I was just like "aw, no, you don't have to get my anything! The tacos are an awesome enough present." But she wants to get me something. She asked if I liked soccer jerseys (haha). I said yeah, and then she asked me what team I liked best. Psh, like I even know any soccer teams! But she's from Columbia, so I told her I wanted a Columbia jersey. Haha. We'll see. There is this family from Olmos that lives with the Yatacos. They have a daughter named Rosemary who's an RM whose birthday also happens to be the 10th, so it looks like it’s gonna be a double birthday! Gosh dangit if I get egged... I think I might be able to be spared the egging, but I'm almost certainly gonna get caked in the face. Expect photos. I'll tell you about it next week! I did get the second package, and I did not open it this time. I also got a card from G&G Paul that I realized was for my birthday so I'm also keeping that safe until my birthday when I'll finally read it.

This past week turned out a lot different than we expected. Tomorrow we have the monthly zone leaders council, and this time I'm gonna give a big presentation to everyone and teach them the very basics of how to use their zone funds all over again. I need to make a big PowerPoint and basically it's this whole big deal that I wasn't expecting would take me such a long time to prepare. I spent all day Saturday working on it, and it’s not even done! Which means I don't really get a p-day today. Just taking a little time to write this e-mail and then I gotta get back to work! If I do a good job, it will solve a heck of a lot of problems for the mission though. So, let's hope I do a decent job! Been kinda stressing me out a bit.

We didn't get to teach a whole lot this week. However, we still had some pretty good success. We had a couple of appointments with Dennis and Gustavo, but they both fell through. We didn't get to see them again until yesterday, but they're still way stoked to get baptized and now we just gotta keep visiting them to help them prepare for and understand what they're doing. Pretty awesome kids. Yesterday we also went to visit this inactive family. They were in the middle of moving, so we helped lug a buncha stuff upstairs to help them, which for some reason just made me really happy (some of my favorite parts of the mission are serving people, rather than teaching them), and then we had a nice visit with them. They all want to come back to church, and come to the activities, and they want to have an FHE with us, and they have a nine year old son who is not baptized who wants to get baptized! So, we're planning for a baptism on December 1st. So that's three upcoming baptisms we have! But wait! There's more!! Call now and we'll throw in this laser, TO INCINERATE YOUR ENEMIES WITH!!! Yours free... Uh, I mean... We have other people who are also totally gonna get baptized soon too but they just don't have a set date yet. Yesterday at church I was talking to little Peter (he shared his awesome testimony with the congregation during testimony meeting. He's not even a member of the church and this is his second time!!) and took him to meet the bishop. The bishop said that if Peter's mom comes to church next week that they'll set a baptismal date. Woo! And then I learned that Peter is nine years old (I thought he was eight! Maybe he just had a birthday.) which means that this baptism will even count for the mission. Which doesn't really matter, but it will make our zone leaders happy when we report more baptisms. Haha. And, yesterday this other kid who we've never seen before came to church in a suit and tie and everything and basically he wants to get baptized and Elder Perea and I are just so confused about where all these baptisms are coming from when we're hardly even teaching anyone!! Plus, Elder Samamé and Elder Cabrera, who share our ward, have two baptismal dates set and other possible baptisms too. When I reported to the ZLs that our district has five baptismal dates with more on the way the ZLs were pretty surprised. Haha. So, we're all pretty stoked right now.

This past Friday one member's eight year old son also got baptized. So we got to be there for that. It was... nice... I guess. Well, actually, let's just turn back to some quotes from my journal entry that night:

"Saying there is no reverence in Peruvian baptisms is an understatement."

"It’s like everyone in attendance always tries their absolute hardest to chase the Spirit away and make sure it doesn't come back. And they're successful!"

"People here have such a strange, and strong fear of water... [He] really, really, really, didn't want to get dunked. So we had to wait like 45 minutes for it to happen."

Probably the most chaotic baptism I have ever seen.

Sunday was a similar experience. Fast Sunday. Testimony Meeting. We're sitting there in the chapel, trying to listen to the testimonies. Next door, some unreasonably loud construction is going on. On the other side, a huge party with crappy electronic music blasting into the church. To top it all off, for some reason the microphone wasn't working yesterday. Anyone more than three rows back couldn't hear a thing. I was just sitting there almost wanting to cry as I'm trying to tune into the Spirit but can't even hear myself think because of all the background noise. So awful. It's so difficult to have reverence here. It's so difficult.

This week I also learned something real cool. I was reading on the church website that on a normal week, usually about 700 people start their missionary applications. However, since the announcement about the change in age requirements for missionaries, that number has jumped from 700 a week, to 4,000 a week!!! And that more than half of the applications are from women! Wow!! So awesome!!!! Elder Hatch and I were way stoked on that. And then when I read your letters this week I learned about how a lot of girls from Eugene 3rd are thinking about serving now. Coolest thing ever! Wow, we could have a ton of missionaries out in the field next year. Eugene 3rd is gonna dominate the world with missionaries! How many are currently out? Myself, Zach, David... anyone else? Porter basically counts. Anyway, that's pretty awesome to me. I'm probably gonna be back home before we really start feelings the effects of the age change announcement in the mission field, but still, it's going to be such a huge blessing for everyone.

Sounds like life back home is still okay. Jacqueline's driving on the freeway. What the heck I don't even remember how to drive! I remember driving on the freeway always seemed like it would be the scariest but it was actually the easiest. Bryn was sick on her birthday!! Been there. That's no fun. You guys pretty much hit the nail right on the head about how I feel about Bryn's birthday:

From Dad: "Bryn turned 18 this afternoon about 2pm, PST. How did that happen? I thought you just turned 18!"

From Bryn: "It's pretty hard for me to believe that I'm 18 already! I still feel like you're 18!!"

Seriously, how is this even possible? I still feel like I'm 18 too!! I'm serious. I don't feel like I should be turning 21. I swear I'm still a teenager. What is going on here. Why am I getting old so fast?! I wasn't done being a kid :(

And Bryn's gonna vote too. That's weird, considering I've never even voted. I was seriously considering voting. I even got my absentee ballot and everything all ready to go and I have all the papers right here in the office so that I can vote. Then I looked at how many pieces of paper it was and decided it was too much work and I don't even know anything about either of the candidates and it would be stupid and irresponsible of me to just randomly pick one of them and hope it was a good choice. I'm not going to vote Romney just because he's a Mormon. And I'm not going to vote Obama just because of all of his Hope posters he put up four years ago. I don't know anything about either one of them. I grew up in a place where everyone and their cat is a Democrat and all my life I've heard everyone talks bad about Republicans and Bush etc... Then I went to college and everyone in Rexburg is a Republican and everyone talks bad about Democrats and about Obama. I've only ever known two extremes. Two extremely biased cultures. I don't have a good idea of what or who I should be voting for. So, I'm not gonna. Not this time.

Look at what Sam keeps telling me!!:

"We got tacos and we got cake. It was chocolate mousse cake. You should be here. You miss out on all the good food. What kind of good food have you had recently? OHHHHH YEAH I had like 10 things of Mtn Dew Voltage. It was so gooooooooood!!!!!"

Hahaha you jerk. But secretly I think all of your letters are really funny.

This morning I was looking back through some of the first letters I ever received as a missionary. I was looking for one specific letter I got from one of my best friends last year for my birthday. But as I was looking for that letter (it's hard because all the Dear Elders look the exact same!) I kept passing by other letters from you guys (mostly from Sam and Jacqueline) that kept mentioning things about Rocket and how he's so weird and so funny and how he likes to eat the blueberries in our back yard and how he misses me and it started making me feel really sad. I really, really miss that guy a ton. I always used to imagine what it would be like coming home and my favorite part was always thinking about what Rocket's reaction would be to seeing me after two years. I barely got to spend any time with him with my year away at school and my year in the mission. But I really liked that guy a whole lot. I miss Rocket so much...

Well, I gotta get going. Super busy today. I love you all a whole ton! Hope Mom and Dad have fun in Guat. Hope the rest have fun in the good ol' United States of Awesome. Thanks for the letters :) The day that I found out about how much the missionary applications had spiked I wrote about it in my journal, and this is what I wrote:


I learned on the Church website that on a normal week about 700 missionary applications are filled out around the world. However, since Conference, that number has jumped from 700, to 4,000!!! Wow!! And more than half of them are girls!! So cool!! Gonna flood the world with missionaries. So stoked!! I'm probably gonna be at home before we feel a noticeable difference in the mission, but still, so rad!! I really wish everyone could have this experience. I'm still waiting hopefully to hear that some friends have decided to serve. Waiting and praying. I don't always love the mission, and I don't always love my companion, and I don't love working hard, but the things I've learned and the experiences I've had and the countless blessings I've received are priceless. If I would have known before the mission how much it was going to change my life, I would have been a lot more excited to come out here than I was. These blessings are worth whatever it takes to receive them. I don't think I would have been able to come to know my Heavenly Father on such a personal level in any other way. I cannot wait until I get home, but I wouldn't give up these past 14 months, or the 10 months I have left for anything. It’s so much more than I thought it would be. It’s all worth it.

-Elder Hemsley


"This reminded me of Eugene."