Monday, October 26, 2015

Lu Cruz Hike / Reflections

This last week began with a hike to La Cruz last P-Day. On a towering hill in our area is a cross large enough to be visible from the city. We scrambled up a steep incline following more of a sheep's trail than an actual path. I'll include pictures. 

This week we also had transfers, when each missionary has the possibility of leaving for another area. My companionship did not change, but my companion's now district leader! I continue my training period for 12 weeks, so he`s taking double duty as trainer and District Leader.  What a stud! Also, Elder Desposorio, my good friend from the CCM, is now in my zone! I was so, so stoked when he came. He's an awesome guy. 

On another note, I found enjoyment this week in finding words I liked in the dictionary and using them casually in conversation. "Wow, the lamps finally alumbra (illuminate) the streets." "Gee, anhelo (I crave) dinner right now." I`m still trying to use arbitrista, or "wild-eyed dreamer". 

More entertainment came on Saturday, when a recent young convert had to dress up for a fiesta. His whole family, including his older cousins, gleefully helped make a convincing Elvis Presley outfit out of gunny sacks, bottle caps, plastic bags, bike chains, and shoe shine for side burns. 14-year-old Vladimir grumbled into the outfit and I helped him pronounce the name. With a styrofoam guitar, we completed his image. Later that day, I also found entertainment in one of the common street dances. The usual happy pipes whistling from a stereo were instead replaced with a horror requiem soundtrack. The choreographed zombie attack was more convincing in the dusty streets of a little town. That night I also taught the ward Capture the Flag, which ended up being a ton of fun in the cement soccer field near the church in the dark. I`d also like to give a spiritual thought for this week.

There are two words for "to know" in Spanish: "saber" and "conocer". The first means to know something factually, and the second is to have a personal understanding of something. For instance, we use conocer with places and people. I believe we come to know God in a saber way through the scriptures and a conocer way through prayer and revelation. Through this second method, I found another way to come to know God. I wanted very much to know more of the character of our Father, and in the following day after a heartfelt prayer, I was reading on the doctrine of him being our Creator. Upon realizing more fully that he formed our personalities, I realized that as we look for the good in other people, we see the resemblance of God in their strengths. So as we grow to love those around us, we find how strong, supportive, sincere, joyful, good humored, and patient God is. Inversely, the more we focus on the negative aspects of our friends and acquaintances, we are only becoming more familiar with the Devil`s characteristics and mannerisms, along with the natural man. I found a new appreciation for Victor Hugo`s words in Les Miserables, "To love another person is to see the face of God." Like the commandment to love thy neighbor as thyself, this principle has two sides. As we come to recognize our own strengths and abilities, we gain a new appreciation for our Father in Heaven. Let's strive, then, to focus on the good in people for our sakes as well as theirs. As we view people with optimism, we recognize the heaven that`s already on Earth. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Time Flies

This week passed by extremely rapidly (as missionaries always say).  Here are the highlights:
  • We had a girl say she received an answer about the Book of Mormon. 
  • We had an investigator come to church. 
  • We had several less actives progress. 
  • And we also had divisions (missionary splits)...
Now, I'm sure my companion has gotten tired of me saying, "my brother says," or "but my brother said this was important..." over the last several weeks, but I took to heart my brother's advice that miracles happen on divisions. So I planned methodically for our investigators, working hard to recognize what we should teach them when the District Leader came over to my area for a day. Our lessons went as planned, a less active ended up coming to church after avoiding it for a long time, and we also found a completely golden investigator family. It was wonderful. They blessed our names, had us dedicate their house to the Lord, accepted our challenges, and told us to please come back whenever possible. My brother was right!

I can't write much more, but know that God loves us and the church is true. AMEN!!!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Our First Baptism

Days slip by fast. This week was of particular note because I participated in my first baptism on the mission. I've looked forward to an experience such as this for a long time, thinking on the dramatic implications of someone choosing to come unto Christ, and therefore receive -- upon enduring to the end -- the greatest blessings God has to offer. Then being able to assist in such a cause is an indescribable privilege. 

For Elder Chujo and I, participation meant hard work all day to prepare for the service. We filled the font after a good deal of Peruvian problems and inconveniences. We went on a several-hour-long quest for baptismal clothing, including a great number of phone calls and call-backs and let-downs. Luckily, Peruvian Standard Time means if a Baptismal Service starts at 5:00, people will cheerfully amble in around 5:30 and the Bishop will arrive around 6. While the baptismal clothing was a little late, it was still received an hour before the service. 

An old man we recently found investigating the church attended, much to our joy. He's an adamant advocate of the United States, and reads each night of the grand men of the U.S. in the little English he can understand. He proudly told us the day before that he would be punctual like those in the States, but ashamedly arrived around 5:10, explaining he had to shave. He was still the first guest to arrive by a long shot. As we waited for the service to begin, I spoke to him about baptism and what it entailed. At times, we spoke in English slowly- a magnificent opportunity to bear my testimony without worrying about the grammatical structure. 

Eventually, of course, the service began, and in dear Peruvian form, I was casually shown that I needed to give the first talk in a couple minutes. I shared scriptures about the duty and blessings of Baptism. The program came to the ordinance, and Hermana Luz Polido was baptized. Friends and family bore powerful testimonies, and afterward we had treats, the old investigator talking animatedly with members.  Luz Polido was beaming, and I felt that this sort of community joy was the meaning of the gospel. 

We provided our investigator with a Bible, and I'd describe the reaction very similar to when Harry Potter gave Dobby a sock. He embraced me, kissed me on the cheek, and promised he wanted very much to know the word of Christ and would read it every night. 

The baptismal service, of course, was the highlight of my week and affirmed my testimony of the gospel of Christ. 

Until next week, don't be a stranger; write if you need anything; and keep in mind that Today's the Day!

Monday, October 5, 2015

General Conference

Another week in the mission has passed, this one including a change in houses. Yes, we moved on Thursday into a brand new room in the same general building as our pension.  Now we don't have to walk to every meal! I wish I could explain houses here, they're so different. Suffice to say, I'm happy with our new home- it seems brighter and more cheerful. It's also slightly more comfortable as Elder Chujo and I arranged the furniture. It feels more my own. 

As interesting as moving is, General Conference took center stage this week. The fraternal feelings of bonding with the North American missionaries to make the scratchy connection with cable in a back room of the Stake Center were strong. When we finally made the connection just in time for the first speaker, we couldn't help but shout loudly and clap each other on the back. The Latinos in the chapel listening to the translation were doubtlessly disturbed. For those unaware of Conference, it's a semi-annual meeting of the Church's authorities at which they give talks to the 15 million members of the church in the world. Twelve apostles, the prophet, and other leaders address us, and this time was particularly special in that three new apostles were called, by revelation of the prophet, to fill the gap of three recently deceased apostles. Elder Rasband seems straightforward and reliable, Elder Stevenson sincere and humble. 

Elder Renlund's talk particularly stood out to me, in that we need to view others as a parent would see them. More specifically, their Father in Heaven. Upon searching the annals of our church magazines, I found two relatively recent talks- one in 2009, and one in the last conference. Latter Day Saints Keep on Trying was, I remember, a notable talk last conference and I'm sure he'll give more powerful sermons in the following years. 

I found a poignant theme in seeking the Holy Ghost in our lives throughout the conference. I liked Elder Lawrence's advice to turn to the Spirit for specific counsel. I would also encourage everyone to take to heart the challenge of Elder Durrant to "ponderize" a scripture each week. If you do, shoot me an email simply with the scripture. I can't respond extensively, but I'll give my pondered, memorized scripture for the week as well. Finally, I give my testimony of these men, that they´re called of God. As Elder Bednar said concerning the apostles:  Sure they're all old, that just means they have a lifetime of experience and service to God. 

The only downside is that when it comes time, we face with them the affects of mortality.  As were many of you, I was heartbroken to see President Monson struggle at the conclusion of his talk, only having prayers to sustain him and keep him upright. Having viewed him as an example all my life, enjoyed his biography, and studied his extensive history of sermons the last fifty years, I know the pillar of strength, enthusiasm, and service he is. He'll continue to demonstrate this, being the person he is, but keep him in your prayers. In the last short while, he's lost his wife and three close friends while in the meantime lifting the church, relying assuredly only on the Lord to lift his own burdens. 

That's all for this week, my friends. Until next time!