Wednesday, December 19, 2012

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

I. Am. So. Tired.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Elder Hemsley

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

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

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

"Christmas came early this year!"

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