Monday, September 28, 2015

An Answer to Prayer

Peru is awesome! The mountains surrounding this area make walking around a pleasure. The culture and food are fairly different, particularly in the way homes are made, but it makes each day interesting. Sometimes you'll see little people lugging wagons of crops across the town, and sometimes you'll see something jarringly modern. It's an odd conglomeration.

Part of the burden of a missionary is the number of experiences we have that we don't have time to share. Today, for the most part, I want to focus on only one day. Tuesday was indescribable. As we prepared to leave for proselyting, I was feeling despondent. Unfailingly, we contact, we make appointments with everyone, we show up for the appointment, and... it falls through. Never does a new investigator actually receive us.  (Our lessons are with references or less active members.)  This wasn't the only source of my unhappiness. There are times when all the aspects of being a new missionary combine against you. So I just glumly but desperately offered a prayer where I said something to the effect of, "Here's a list of all my problems. It's not as if I'm ever going to stop working or doing what I should, and I know trials are good for me, but please intervene because I feel awful."  

Now I believe sometimes life is just hard and God gives you some room to struggle and grow. So I was very pleasantly surprised when our first return appointment resulted in a lesson in the man's home.  Remember this doesn't normally happen- it was actually my first experience with this. So we gave the first lesson and went to our next appointment happened again. This was even more interesting. I don't want to make light of anyone's trials, but it helped that this boy of about fifteen years is something of a special case. He said something similar to, "I see dead people. I see them all the time."  Or, well, he hears them. And he knows when his family members are going to die, which tears him apart because he could foretell his grandmother's death, and he believes it will never change. He's meek and a normal student and can talk intelligibly about everything else, so I honestly don't know. But it would be kind of awesome if we could bring him peace. Anyway, then we had lessons with our baptismal candidates, one of whom accepted this week's date and the other asked for more time. Then we had a happy lesson with a family in the church, then we had yet another return appointment with a new investigator. Three lessons with new investigators in one day? There is literally no way this could not have been a direct answer to my prayer. So, yes, God lives and answers prayers, and life is great.

Unfortunately, both of our baptismal candidates actually need special interviews concerning some things in their pasts, so we had no baptisms. By the way, I'd like to clarify something I said last week. Our area is extremely small- the smallest in our city at least. So the rarity of baptisms is a little more understandable. Also, the fact that before September we had no baptisms for five or so months was an abnormal draught. Generally, looking at the records, this area used to have about one or two a month. Nevertheless, I'm excited I´m here at this time in Paucarbamba- my companion and I want to baptize five of our investigators before my companion gets switched out of the area at the end of October! Life is a lot more exciting with goals and drive. 

In conclusion, remember the church is true and that the work is good. Please listen to General Conference this upcoming week. I'm beyond excited to hear it. It's particularly interesting as three new Apostles will be called, an event not seen for ninety-nine years. I was very sorry to hear the passing of Richard G. Scott- he was a great man and I always particularly enjoyed his talks. I know he's happy now that he can be with his wife once more. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

In My First Area

It's been two weeks since my last blog post.  Back then, I was still living in innocent CCM fun. Since then, I've arrived in my first area. We travelled from the CCM to Huancayo two weeks ago in a double-decker bus, only holding us missionaries. We met one missionary who was returning from home after being out of action for a couple months. He'd been out in the field for a year before, so of course we peppered him with questions. I think his tall tales were meant to scare us, but they only enthralled us. What adventures and struggles lay ahead of us! Well, they were all no doubt true for him, but they were frankly a little silly. Two weeks in bed from altitude sickness? We were a little woozy for two days. I met my companion, Elder Chujo, then said a difficult goodbye to my good CCM friends.  After a day of training with the mission president, I went off to Huanuco. 

It's a dusty town surrounded by towering Peruvian mountains. I serve in the smallest area of the city. It's a strange conglomeration of lifestyles. I somewhat naively pictured the Shire when I dreamt of my service here. Are there peaceful pastures rolling into the mountains beyond? Well, yes. And do I see at times people who are genuinely half my height? Yes. And do the old women wear garish, bright outfits with munchkin caps? Yes, but sometimes you teach poor families who live with a dirt floor and a single bed and the pig outside the door is drowning out the lesson, but you don't know much Spanish so mostly you just make funny hand signals at a little deaf girl. This certainly isn't the Shire. It's a city of poverty with out-of-place agricultural elements. For here mixes a modern and carefree lifestyle with an older and more difficult lifestyle. It's a little more like home than you'd think in some ways, but a little more different in others. Everyone here rides either motorcycles or funny little moto-taxis that are tiny. It's pretty cool. 

Last week we got to hike up in the mountains. We walked by pristine lakes, waterfalls, and rocky cliffs. Slopes and slopes of pale green mountains stretch on for as far as the eye can see. The geography of this place is magnificent, the sort you dream of when you hear of far-away places. I love looking up past the city while we're walking, especially at night. The houses that climb into the hills twinkle as the mountains fade into the same shade as the sky. A little higher, you see at times the dying embers of a wildfire pulsing in a quiet manner. And at last, you see the stars of a new and strange hemisphere dotting the sky. The temperature's just perfect.

Well, this is all well and good, but how goes the work? Everyone says the work is much slower than you'd think here. This is true. Aside from this month, our area hasn't seen a baptism since April, I believe. Well, yes, we had two this month before I came and two more planned for this week, but this is exciting and different. My Spanish is improving exponentially, though I'll still sound extremely silly for some time to come. The work is good, and hard, but it's worth it. Whenever it gets difficult, I can remember how grand a purpose we serve, and how much joy I need to share with these people.

Until next time, my friends. I'll try to send pictures.

Elder Burt

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Goodbye CCM, Hello Paurcarbama!

[Andrew sent a very short note on Monday, explaining that he had arrived safely in Huancayo at the mission home.  On Thursday, we received a note from the Mission President with news of where Elder Burt would be assigned: a small town called Paurcarbamba in Huanuco.  His new P-Day is Monday, so we'll look forward to hearing from him at that time.]

Elder Burt with President and Sister Henderson

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

P-Days / Elder Bednar / Off to the field

Hola, y Feliz P-Day! Here at the CCM (In spanish, it's say-say-emmay), pretty much every week is Christmas.

Twas the Night Before P-Day, and all through the CCM
Not a creature was stirring (not even Presidente!)

You get out of bed earlier than most days since we've got to pack in a bunch of shopping and a temple trip in the day. 

And if all the missionaries have been really good, the Janitors open up the Laundry Room! This makes missionaries extremely happy. Usually breakfast is something just slightly better than the usual bread, bread, and more bread of every other breakfast. 

And then we wait, patiently, for the doors to open. 

P-Day is a time for gifts, so we go and buy all sorts of stuff for ourselves, like Hymnals and ties. P-Day is also a time for friends. We play a bunch of soccer, hang out in the dorms, and generally have fun. P-Day is also a time for family. We get to look to see if we got letters, and we also get to email home.

P-Days are good. And last P-Day, Elder Bednar came and spoke to us. We had the opportunity to gather with all the missionaries of Lima and hear from one of the Twelve Apostles. He was sincere and funny, and taught effectively. At the beginning, he told us he knew we only ever saw him when he was very serious during General Conference, and that we likely expected him to lecture us in a similar manner and we would obediently take notes. However, he said, he's not a very serious person, and he didn't want us to take notes on anything he said. Elder Bednar then told us we do many things for culture's sake which, he said, is stupid. His wife then got up and told us she tried to get him not to say this word over the pulpit.

In other words, it was a very human contact, and his message was that he was not the teacher. The Spirit was, and whatever answer or guidance we received that day would come from impressions to our mind. He asked broad questions, seeing as specific questions put people under pressure in big meetings like this and diminish the Spirit. He said to never, ever play the game "Guess what's in my Head" with anyone you're teaching. Then, as people raised their hands and gave their thoughts, he would politely ask if he could ask another question about their answer. He'd expound on their answer and teach a principle. Now, I don't intend to relate everything he shared, but the point I want to make is that he was teaching by example. Elder Bednar is an extremely accomplished teacher, and instead of telling us how to conduct our lessons, he showed us by being open and friendly, asking inspired questions, and watching individuals learn for themselves.  The main thing he wanted us to learn was simply in how he spoke. Then he'd bear powerful witness of truths and share simple but effective examples from his life. He'd frequently ask his wife, also, to help answer questions. He committed us to studying further in other areas and showed that he cared about us. All of it was done in a very genuine, humble manner. And this is what impressed me. It was in no way fake (he probably only prepared by choosing the subject and praying about it), and it was in no way self-righteous. It was just... a very committed and wise man sharing powerful messages that invited the Spirit more than any other speaker I've listened to. In other words, he seemed like what a real apostle of Christ ought to be.  It was my favorite and most inspirational experience of the mission thus far- and it's up there in life experiences, as well.

Elder Johnson and Elder Burt
Quickly, I also thought I'd mention that he said Elder Oaks (another apostle whom Mormons in general are very familiar with) was the most hilarious man he'd ever met- that the man starts shaking with laughter before he ever finishes a joke. I thought that was kinda funny, seeing as we mostly know Elder Oaks from Conference as well.

Also, I leave for Huancayo this upcoming week! I'll send the new address to my family next week, whenever my P-Day is, and they'll put it up on the website. If you do end up writing, know that just this week I received letters from about two weeks ago- it'll be longer from Huancayo up in the mountains, so feel free to email me! I can't answer every week, but I don't know how long the mail service will take from up there. Next time you here from me, I'll be in the field!

Elder Desposorio, Elder Johnson, and Elder Moss