Hola from a hot summer day in the surfing capital of Peru!
I am currently very sunburned (burnt? I never knew how to correctly use that word...) because all the guys in our zone went to the beach here today (the sisters are in Chiclayo) but we didn't plan it ahead of time so I didn't think sunscreen would be necessary... this happens every single Monday. I always get burned... burnt... Mr. Burns... I dunno. We walked out to the end of the pier and it was the sketchiest thing in the world. There were big gaps in between all the boards and huge holes where boards were missing, and the boards wobbled and creaked and basically we were all sort of afraid we were going to die but we kept going anyway. We were being super careful and we were afraid to move too much. It was an adventure. As we were walking back, which was equally as scary, some guys walked past us. The end. Oh wait, they were holding a freaking penguin! So they let us take turns holding it and getting pictures with it. Soo... I held a penguin today. Randomest thing ever. It pooped on Elder Conforme. Hahaha. Then we went to a restaurant and ate chicken and rice (weird huh?) and then to a lighthouse and now I'm here. I miss Seaside.
So word on the street is that Jacqueline got a new violin for Christmas. I'm well aware you told me that a million years ago but I forgot until just now. That is awesome!! Jack, you better practice a lot so that when we get back we can play every Yellowcard song ever written together. I'll just have to re-learn how to play the guitar and sing. Well, more like learn for the first time, because I never really knew how to do either one of those. I would tell you specific songs to practice, but it doesn't matter because every Yellowcard song is one of my favorite songs ever. (Believe, View From Heaven, For You and Your Denial, Rough Landing Holly, Ocean Avenue, Bomber... EVERY SONG). And what's this about Bryn getting an Xbox game? As far as I know the only person in our family with a 360 is me and it is not to be touched for the next two years please... Okay fine, play it...
We haven't gotten mail for the past three weeks because they no longer send us our mail if our zone doesn't have all the baptismal records turned in, and apparently we still don't so I probably won't get mail this week either. Kind of frustrating. And I heard from one of the assistants to the prez that I have a big package waiting for me and I kinda want that. So I haven't read anything any of you have sent me in a long time.
This week was cool. Finally got to help build a house! Well, a room of a house. Out of adobes. We set up a service project with the elders quorum to help a sister add on to her house. Kind of awesome. Adobe houses are way cool. Although I am very glad I don't live in one... So I was super excited to get to do that! Fun times.
We also went to Chiclayo this week for a meeting for all the elders who are training and being trained. It was pretty fun. Got to see some elders from my group in the Lima MTC and it was fun to talk to them and see how they were doing. Good times. After the meeting Elder Choc and I went into this store by the bus station and bought these flute things called quenas, and now we're trying to learn how to play them. I can sort of make sound with it... Haha. Way fun though to finally have an instrument to play! Elder Burton told us that he also bought one, so we're gonna start a quena band. Well not really because none of us know how to play them. Elder Choc is kinda good at it though!
On Tuesday we went to our zone meeting in Guadalupe, but there was a baptism going on that apparently I was never told about for the sister missionaries who are there. They've been teaching this lady named Brenda who is Peruvian but grew up in California and speaks and understands English better than Spanish. So they've been teaching her in English this whole time! How cool is that? (Sister Williams and Sister Case are both from Utah.) It was a way good baptism. Sister Williams gave a talk, and it was in Spanish so everyone at the baptism could understand, but she said some stuff in English to make it easier for Brenda to understand (and I appreciated it too). The coolest thing was that she quoted D&C 90:11 which says "For it shall come to pass in that day, that every man shall hear the fullness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language, through those who are ordained unto this power, by the administration of the Comforter, shed forth upon them for the revelation of Jesus Christ," and she talked about how God knew that Brenda was ready to hear the gospel, so he called two North American missionaries to Guadalupe to teach her in her own language. So cool! The spirit was way strong at the baptism. The font was way full too. I was jealous.
Knocked a ton of doors this week. Door knocking is not super effective in Pacasmayo. Didn't get into any houses because of it, but made a few appointments. So that's good. What Pacasmayo really needs is a stronger branch. The members here need to be strengthened before we go out looking for new members. We're working on it...
I've been drinking a ton of soda ever since I got here. I always assumed in the United States we drank way more soda than anywhere else in the world because we're dumb and fat, but I was very wrong. Everyone drinks soda all the time here! I guess that's what happens when the water isn't safe to drink. Soda everywhere. I believe I was being prepared for this mission with all the Mountain Dew I consumed before I came out here. Also some stores sell Oreos and it's the best thing ever. Junk food from the United States is the best invention in the world! Oh how I miss it.
The work is tough here. But the message we have is so important. Our message is centered on Jesus Christ, and it's centered on love. Almost always the first thing we teach people is that we have a Father in Heaven who loves us with a perfect love. We are promised so many blessings if we love God. In Matthew we learn what the two greatest commandments are when a man asks Jesus "which is the great commandment in the law?" to which Christ replies "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." Love is the most important. The two greatest commandments we have are to love. "On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets (Matt 22:36-40)."
But how do we show our love for God? Jesus taught "If you love me, keep my commandments (John 14:16)." We show our love to God by being obedient to his commandments. In 1 Corinthians we read "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him (1 Cor. 2:9)." To me this is one of the most amazing promises found in the scriptures. The blessings God has for us if we love Him are so great that we can't even imagine them or understand them without the help of the Spirit. But now we're caught in a loop. We show our love for God by keeping his commandments, and his commandment is to love Him. So how do we really show our love for God?... By loving others. By keeping the second great commandment we automatically keep the first.
In Matthew 25 we read "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me (Matt 25:40)." If we have loved others, we have loved God. If we have served others, we have served God. If we offend others, we offend God. So we have to try our best to love everyone we come in contact with to show God that we truly love him.
Jesus Christ teaches that "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (John 13:35)." When we are baptized we make a promise that we will take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, and that we will follow Him, and serve Him. By showing our love for each other we become the disciples of Christ that we promised we would strive to be.
My favorite promise found in all of the scriptures is in The Book of Mormon, in the second chapter of Mosiah. It reads: "And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God." And what are the greatest commandments we have from God? To love Him, and to love others. How do we love Him? By loving others. We automatically keep the first by keeping the second. It continues: "For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it. (Mosiah 2:41)" To me that's a pretty amazing promise. If we keep Gods commandments and "hold out faithful to the end" we will be received into heaven to dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. That is the greatest promise of all time. That's my goal. I know love is something I need to work on. It's hard to love people who you can barely communicate with, but it's the most important thing I can do as a missionary, and as a human being. We need to work on love. The message I'm here to share is about love. If we truly love those around us, we are promised incredible blessings. I know that this is true with all my heart. That's the reason I'm here. If I didn't absolutely know what I was sharing with these people was the truth, it would be stupid to come out here for two years. It would be a huge waste of time. But I know it's not a waste of time, because the Holy Ghost has confirmed to my heart over and over again that what I'm doing is the right thing. It's what God wants. It's what Christ wants. And I have been called to be a representative of and a voice for Jesus Christ here in Peru for the next two years. How can I represent Jesus Christ without showing my love? I can't.
That's what I've been thinking about a lot this week. One day when we were walking to an appointment all of those scriptures randomly came to my head. I might not have known exactly where they all were, but I looked them up when I got back to our room and wrote them down. Later I found out that I had to teach our lesson in our district meeting, so I used those scriptures as my outline and taught about love. It's all about love. I need to work on it, you need to work on it. That is all. I love you all a whole lot, and I shall write again next week (we find out about changes on Sunday. I don't want to get changed!).
Some more fun pictures from Peru (Victor's comments included):
"Elder Choc and I in Pacasmayo! We have the best area!"
"Playing my quena earlier today. No, I don't know what I'm doing."
"Building a house o'bricks. If you look behind me, those tarps and cardboard boxes are the family's old house. Seriously. We helped them move. And yes, I am wearing two hats, neither of which are mine."
"The end of the pier. It's lacking a Ruby's...probably fell through one of those holes..."
"Under the pier. And yes, after almost three months my hair is finally long enough to stay down (mostly). Stupid haircuts."
There's more new pictures! You can check them out (full-sized) by clicking on the slideshow at the top of this blog.