Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas Message

[We had a great, hour-long Skype visit with Andrew on Christmas Day.  He looked happy and healthy, and he patiently answered our many questions.  He loves serving on his mission and has made many friends along the way.  Below is his Christmas email/message.]

Merry Christmas! Ours consisted of fruit cake, hot chocolate, and being woken up by a thousand fireworks at midnight. Nevertheless, it was a very memorable Christmas. I think of the gifts I witnessed given:
  • We participated in a baptism on Christmas Eve. The younger brother of one of our earlier converts was baptized on his eleventh birthday. His brother performed the ordinance. This meant the boy received the Holy Ghost on Christmas; fitting considering the talk of the First Presidency's Christmas Devotional that named it the best gift God can give here. 
  • Another young man was officially granted all of his rights as a member after a long, strenuous repentance process. He bore to us a climactic testimony that encapsulated all the sorrow and pain he'd finally conquered, and all the powerful hopes he was now permitted to entertain: the Melchizedek Priesthood, the temple, and a mission in a matter of months.

Both events were purified and called for heavenly attention. Being bound by mortal sight, we may only guess at the significance of such gifts. I feel it distinctly.  All of eternity's weight balances on the knife's edge of mortality.  So we hold on to what we have and stand up another year.

"And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child." Luke 2:17

Recent baptism
Elder Burt and friend at recent conference

Out caroling

Elder Burt w/ Friend

Huanuco Sunset

Monday, December 19, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! This last week was extraordinarily memorable. Our President gave us a goal a couple weeks ago of shooting for a 140 contacts a week...something this mission is absolutely not used to. We wanted to inspire our zone and decided to work hard to truly complete it this week. The experiences flooded in. We started talking with everyone, which led to a great many lessons with new people, including two young men about our age. Other than getting a bloody nose on their doorstep, the experience was amazing. We taught some basic principles about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, and they felt the Spirit. The next day, we taught the first lesson in the church, invited them to stick around for an activity, and they did...watching messages of President Monson as they waited with members. On Sunday, they failed to come to church, but we found one in the street later that day. He said a family member had just passed away, so we met in the church a little later to talk about the Plan of Salvation. We explained the Spirit would only manifest the truth to him if he was determined to act and take the steps of Christ's gospel, including baptism. He conceded that if he came to know the church was true, he would be baptized, and prayed promising such to God. That was the most memorable experience. 

Also, we're preparing this awesome kid, the little brother of one of our last baptisms, for baptism this Christmas Eve. He's completely innocent.  We had to explain the commandments to him this week, and I had to try and explain chastity. As I started sweating, starting with the classic, "When a guy and girl like being around each other a lot...sometimes..." He interjected with an understanding, "Oooooh!! My older brother explained this to me! You have to respect girls and and not unchaste them until marriage!" I've never heard that term before, but, eh,we left it alone there.

Well, life is good. Life is amazing. I love every moment of my time here in Tarapacá, and I don´t want to leave it anytime soon. Mission life is golden, and I am so grateful for this time I have been given to legitimately touch the eternities with my actions. I hope you have a merry Christmas.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Chart & Map

This week Andrew sent an audio recording instead of a blog message, so I’ll relate some of it to give you an idea what he’s been up to.

Last week he got a new companion: Elder Moss.  They were both in the same MTC class together back in Lima, so they’ve known each other for quite some time and get along quite well.  Like Andrew, Elder Moss enjoys being active. I hear they’ve been going on runs together and had just gotten back from playing basketball when Andrew started his recording.

He said they’d had a very successful week, meeting their goal of 100 contacts with several call-backs.  They had an investigator come to church who then asked Andrew and his companion to give a blessing to a very sick aunt.  Two baptisms are coming up on Christmas eve, so that’s pretty cool.

Below is a chart of altitudes of Andrew's areas with a comparison to Mt. Rainier.  You can see that one of Andrew's areas (Junín) was nearly as high.  It's hard to imagine living there for months on end.  Also, I show a map of where those areas were and which order he was assigned (green color is current location; blue colors are previous assignments).

Monday, December 5, 2016

Here Comes Christmas

This week I saw my beloved companion off as he returned to Mexico for his goodly reward after two years. Meanwhile, I'm happy sticking here as the Christmas season comes in full swing. Here comes the beloved, whiny Christmas carols ("Campanas de Belèn", if you want to look up an example on YouTube), the essential panetòn, and its eternal companion -- hot chocolate. 

I'm glad for the Christmas story. Once again, roles we don't think much of get me thinking. As the shepherds stayed in the cool fields on the clear night, the angels came and visited them, giving a celestial choir experience. Who was in that choir? Nobody resurrected, surely, as no one could be resurrected before Christ. It could only have been selected spirits, probably waiting to descend in their proper time to be born. Were you in it? Was I? What parts did we play in angelic visitations in the pre-mortal life? Our lives were completely centered on Christ and the hopeful belief that we would indeed accept Him when we came here. I think that includes all of us... our internal spirits are desperately trying to live up to a pre-earthly hope and love for Christ. I think we become more true to ourselves as we serve Him more diligently. I hope we can do so this Christmas season.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Opportunities to Serve

Missionaries have lots of opportunities to serve. For instance, we held a baptismal service yesterday for a young man who we've been teaching this month. Another example of the week was when we pulled a drunk unconscious out of the street so he wouldn't get hit by a car. The possibilities are endless! As Christ taught, even as we do it unto one of the least of our brethren, we do it unto him. I think that has more significance than the simplest interpretation- that as Sons of God, He'll be happy as we strengthen our brothers and sisters. I think it has something to do with the Atonement. 

We know that Christ literally felt every pain and consequence of sin this world suffered. For instance, if someone had depression and resorted to drug abuse, Christ would have to feel the consequences. If a friend took the time to support that person and help him find other means of alleviation beforehand, Christ would not need to feel the consequences of the actions untaken. Therefore, by serving our fellow man, we can literally take off a minute portion of our Savior`s sufferings. However small that portion may be, I am thankful for the opportunity God gives us to help his Son in such a real way. 

The Church has done something cool for this Christmas on called Light the World ( I think- it's Ilumina el Mundo in Spanish) where each day of December is offered a way to serve like the Savior, with three application ideas, a short message, and a video. I think it`s a neat way to make the season one of service. 

Until next week, I hope you enjoy the end of your November!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Why Do We Fall?

This week we set up two youth to be baptized by the end of November- one this next Saturday and one the following week, a couple days before my companion goes back home to Mexico. We're excited to get them completely ready with the time we have left. 

I've been thinking this week about our particular doctrine on the necessity of the Fall of Adam to kickstart God's Plan of Salvation. I think it's best summed up in a favorite Batman quote- "Why do we fall?  So we can learn to pick ourselves up!"  The entire purpose of being here is to learn and progress, and the only way to achieve such a goal is to fall. In the case of the Gospel, the manner in which we pick ourselves up is by being willing to lift up our hand and let Christ pull us up to our feet. We fell so we can learn by experience to have faith (lifting up our hand) and to repent (gripping His hand and struggling to get up). When Christ told us, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect," He was telling us that one day we would stand up like them, having attained perfection by struggling throughout this life. 

I'm grateful that He loved us enough to send us here, then save us. I'm thankful that as a missionary, I can share His message with those in my area.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Work is Divine

This week we prepared for the baptism of one of our investigators. Everything was going well... until he called us two days before to tell us, on second thought, he was taking things far too quickly and he'd like to postpone it. I was fairly panicked the following night, mind racing with possible reasons he might have and possible answers we might provide. The following day, we had our make-it-or-break-it lesson with him. It was an intensely spiritual lesson where we tried not to tug him so much as explain why we thought he was ready. I felt the Spirit guide the process, telling me, point for point, the direction I ought to go. It worked, and he changed his mind. I felt utterly exhausted afterward, and could hardly think. I am very thankful the work is divine. I felt so incompetent as I realized no emotion or reason I could express was sufficient to 'convince' him. In the end, he was baptized the following day. He's an awesome kid with personality- I've seen the light in his eyes come a couple times to demonstrate his individuality. For instance, I saw it when he closed his sincere, peaceful baptismal testimony with a random Winston Churchill quote. Ah, it reminded me of something I would do. 

I know the church is true, and that in the end everything's going to be all right. Also, here are some pictures!

"This is of me and the young man I baptized.
My plaque is behind his shoulder, I promise!"

"This is our good friend in the area who helps us out with everything.
He's preparing for a mission, and he's the bomb."

Monday, November 7, 2016

Finding Truth

This week was wonderful. We had so many investigators miraculously want to be baptized. Of course, there are always more obstacles along the way, but we're off to a good start and what I feel will be my most successful month of the mission thus far. It's doubled in happiness because I really love this area and the people here. 

We have one boy who will be baptized this week. His progress was slow until...he looked up on the internet rumors on Joseph Smith. The anti-Mormon material is so strident. We braced ourselves up for our next lesson with him, and he was completely at peace. He said he'd read parts of the Book of Mormon and realized for himself rumors were usually just rumors, and there's a reason for most things. He said he felt more at peace in his life now, and began to progress dramatically. He downloaded all of our pamphlets before we got to him, and explained to us all the doctrine. 

I know when we search answers for ourselves and follow through on our feelings, we'll find the truth. God rewards the seeker.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Baptism / Achieving Our Potential

This week we were blessed to participate in another baptism. About three weeks ago, we placed the 29th of October as a goal for her, but she vehemently denied that she would be ready so quickly. While she pushed back frequently whenever we mentioned it, I felt that if we became quiet about it and worked with her in completing all of her commitments, she would one of these days tell us she was ready. Such a day came last Saturday, and miraculously she was baptized on the first date we set with her. It was, I believe, the most spiritual baptism I've seen on the mission. Her testimony was very obvious. I was also very proud of her best friend, who's preparing to go on a mission after being a member a year, for preparing a thoughtful testimony with interesting scriptures for her. 

Our area is full of amazing members, who are good and genuine friends. It's important to remember everyone here has eternal potential, and praying for charity permits us to see people as they are. As Paul said in Romans 8:19, ¨The earnest expectation of the creature (creation, in context) waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.¨ All of creation is waiting for us to achieve our potential...hopefully and anxiously. Until next week, my friends, happy Halloween!

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Message of the New Testament

This week was great. We have an investigator who finally accepted the challenge to be baptized. She has had a testimony since we first started meeting with her a couple weeks ago. She was having visits from missionaries beforehand for over a year, her twin having already been converted. Since the beginning, after we encouraged her toward baptism, I had a pretty good feeling that if we tried to press her again she'd shrink even further. At the same time, I figured if she still kept all of her commitments, kept feeling the Spirit so strongly, she would inevitably tell us one of these days, "Elders...I think I'm ready now."  And so it was.  This was quite miraculous. While we haven't been able to reach the full extent of our zone goals as far as baptisms go this month, we were still able to have a very successful month, and she told us just about the last day possible in which we could still set a date for October. I'm grateful for that. 

I've been thinking this week on the message of the New Testament. We have just a bit of information on who our Savior was and what He did in His life. Really, what we have is a detailed account of Him healing blind people, cripples, the diseased, and the deaf. Of course, this is a very heartwarming story, but still I wondered, why is that the central emphasis of the story of Christ? Why is that Christianity's story?  I realized it's because the whole point of the Gospel is that we can be healed. We're hammered with this doctrine that Christ can heal anything to make us remember that through His Atonement, He can fix us up too, be it physical, mental, or spiritual. Our belief system is one of becoming whole and shaking off the dust of a harsh life into purity and immortality. The Gospels are all one big metaphor for the Atonement. That helped me appreciate how central it is to my life -- the power that Christ has to take the hits and let us overcome our trials. I know that He has a plan for each of us, to make us whole. 

Until next week, my friends!

Monday, October 17, 2016

How We Treat Others

Hello, all! This will be a very short update, but I had a hard-working week with a baptism. 

I was thinking this week how important it is to treat others how they ought to become and not how they are, as President Eyring mentioned in conference. I think we have a firm power in the reality of the lives of others as we build others up.  I think as we treat all as equal children of God, we'll be lifted in our spirits as well. 

Wow, that really was short! Nevertheless, I hope you all have a wonderful upcoming week.

Monday, October 10, 2016


Happy P-Day! This week went by fast and included fun activities, such as a parade as the church did a blood-drive. Kids do parades all the time here for their schools- they usually mope while their teachers shout what they're representing or who they're celebrating. We also started some zone goals to make everyone pumped for October. This is going to be an amazing month, so we're working particularly hard to reach high goals. Amid all that, I started thinking about how important sincerity is in the work. I think insincerity is one of the deadliest traps. In any routine, it's inevitable that the reasons we do things slowly shift from sincerity to comfort. I thought of some ways to save our sincerity in whatever we're doing.

1. Change. The most difficult thing, in most cases, is change, which means stagnation will bring ease which will bring apathy. We need always be changing because that´s where we are challenged. As we frequently seek to give something more, I think we save our sincerity. I believe this is particularly true on the mission. We ought to frequently adjust and heighten our goals in order that our sentiments are as true as possible.

2. Continual Self-Evaluation. I don´t know how often we really use our time to think. We have a great many activities during the day and it seems whenever we've got downtime we turn to either music or movies to let someone else think for us. When we are thinking, I think it´s common to get hung up on hypothetical situations and run them into the ground in your head. I think the most effective way to use time to think is to evaluate yourself, and where you are, and why you´re doing what you´re doing, and your goals, and why you have those goals, and try and stretch your ability to think and develop ideas. Or, in other words, continual repentance. That's the kind of thought method that gets us somewhere, and gets us to know ourselves. My Dad emphasized that frequently in our Family Home Evenings, and my Mom used to guide us in exercises as kids to help us think clearly. 

3. Prayer. Praying always makes me more sincere, because I have to acknowledge that He knows me perfectly, which means I have to spend a lot more mental effort on portraying my real desires for Him. There's no use lying, after all. If I've gotten into a routine, then I don't know how much good that does. Elder Bednar once said we don't have to try really hard to think of new things to say to avoid routine, but rather focus on really meaning what we say and then acting on it.

Anyway, those are some of my thoughts this week. I hope you all continue to have good days and weeks and find relief in being sincere with yourself and others.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Investigator Progress / General Conference

This week, everything seemed to turn out exactly right. We explained to a couple how they couldn't keep living together and receive the blessings of the man's baptism and the woman's reactivation. This is usually a game-stopper because everyone here lives together, and no one bothers with marriage. Yet, as one of the many miracles of this week, they said, "Sure!" and we set a goal for the following week. 

Another boy the missionaries were teaching before I got here recently decided he wanted to get baptized, and we worked out a plan with him to iron out his doubts. 

Another one of our golden less-active/investigator couples suffered the lowest blow of the week, being victims of a serious robbery, losing about 6000 soles. That'll continue to be a struggle, but they've determined to not let it interfere with the marriage or the subsequent baptism. This is actually a sizable act of faith, since marriage takes money here.  

Later, one of the go-nowhere contacts we made (I'm super busy, I can't talk right now...yeah, yeah, come back tomorrow!!) turned into a great new investigator the next day who changed his life five years ago through Alcoholics Anonymous and is looking for the next step to get closer to God. 

At the end of the week, we met with other great families, including two dramatic teenage twins- one who was already baptized and one who's still waiting. She said she had questions the other missionaries couldn't answer and left her confused.  I mentally braced myself to give delicate answers to sensitive church topics, when she asked, "Why do we need the Book of Mormon when we already have the Bible?" I don't know what the other missionaries were thinking, but we answered it with ease and she said she felt a lot more sure afterward, and that she's ready to give an extra effort to find out if it's true. My favorite part was after our member gave his testimony, and she raised her hand and dramatically said, "You know, something, hermano? When you talk, somehow... I know that what you say is the truth." Slay ém, Emilio. 

Of course, our sense of joy this week was doubled by General Conference, the theme of which in part, as far as I could see, was joy and thanksgiving. President Nelson spoke on the indomitable joy that can conquer all situations when we are focused on Christ. President Eyring spoke on the importance of finding joy and thanksgiving in Sunday services, which Elder Davies said ought to be filled with "majestic awe" and "profound thanksgiving".  President Monson spoke on how wonderful it is that we know the Plan of Salvation, and what that can mean in our lives. To that same theme, President Uchtdorf said, "Does it not fill our hearts and minds with wonder and awe to contemplate the Great Plan of Happiness our Heavenly Father has prepared for us? Does it not fill us with unspeakable joy to know of the glorious future of all who wait upon the Lord?" What struck me was the sincerity with which they said it; their voices choked with emotion and their faces beaming as they shared how much happiness it brought them. I know they are servants of God, and I know life is certainly meant to be joyful.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Update with Pictures!

Hello, my fine first-world friends! I hope your life is properly filled with happiness and joy and pre-Christmas excitement. Ours certainly is (maybe because we found Mr. Krueger's Christmas on the floor one night). This week was a little hectic, and included a Leadership Council in Huancayo. We had to travel a great deal, but I was fine with that because I realized my life-long dream (ever since I saw The Fellowship of the Ring ten years ago) to be invited to a secret council. This week was awesome, with a ton of work and lots of new investigators; families to be converted unto exaltation; troubled youth to be set right; and people to hear the good word of God. Ah, what a life.

I've been thinking about a powerful scripture in Paul's writings, in Philippians 3:10. Paul is talking about everything he gave up for the church, and explains why with, 'That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made comformable unto his death.'  The phrase that sticks out for me is, "fellowship of his sufferings". Christ has taken upon him all pain, and to qualify for His company we must know a portion of what that means. When we suffer for the sake of righteousness, then, we're fighting in the most worthy cause the world has seen. Do we laud pleasure-seekers and arrogance in our heroes? We would rather give our highest regard to the most socially, physically, and emotionally weak so long as they are suffering for what's morally right. By the very association or support we give them, we hold our heads up higher and feel better about ourselves- even by viewing something heroic, we are reminded that any righteous agony brings a more solid joy than any purposeless pleasure. James and John once wanted places at the side of the throne of God, and Christ replied that they would indeed soon know of His bitter cup. What is the connection between their question and His answer? Elder Holland once explained quite powerfully, "The cup and the throne were inextricably linked, and they could not be given separately." I know that. I know Christ's fellowship will make our pains and our victories reasons to hold our heads high, fighting, in our small way, for the same cause as the greatest souls who ever lived. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

I'm sorry I haven't written for a while on the has been a little hectic recently. Luckily, I have pictures to compensate!

The Super Secret Council

My trainer, Papa Chujo, and I (reunion after about ten months)

Me, pondering and studying deeply

Me, with my favorite Liahona issue from the 1990s.

Me and my companion getting ready to save the world.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Another Transfer

[Andrew wrote us all family letters this week but did not have time for his blog, unfortunately.  He says I can write some of the news he has shared.  First big news is that he's been made Zone Leader and that requires him to move out of San Ramon and back near Huanaco, which was his first area.  He spent time walking around his old town, trying to visit some of his old friends and contacts.]

He writes, "I also had the wonderful opportunity to walk once more through my first area. I knocked the doors of the people I miss the most. Though the direct people I wanted to talk to weren't there, I got to talk to the little girl of my first Pension, and someone from the family of Vladimir. I was close to all the family, so it was cool. I didn't have time to drop by Arlene (I formed a blog around her life story once) but it was still nice to walk around what felt a little like home. A little haunting, haha.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Happiness Within

Last week I showed some pictures of waterfalls that we visited, and our baptismal service of two young men, Benji and Jerson. It was nice to see them finally become members, as they are good kids who converted fully.

This week we talked with a decent number of people who were open and ready to listen. As we talked them through many of their problems, concerns, and questions, I began to notice a difference here. Despite the paradisiacal climate, liberality, and friendliness here, we have more people who are depressed and struggling with darker problems than I've seen in any other area. Dusk is always accompanied with community volleyball games scattered about the town; there are always activities such as fairs and parades in the main plaza; a shaved ice or ice cream stand is always nearby. However, it all not only seems to make no one markedly happier but perhaps inhibits anyone from finding real joy. 

I think our minds sustain a certain level of happiness.  Situations don't matter a ton...have you ever noticed how even when you have relatively few problems in life, you merely place much more importance in the small stresses and worries? In which case, trying to change our situation is hacking at the wrong tree. We sustain a higher level of joy by drawing nearer to God and keeping His commandments. I can see in several people we're visiting the healing in their minds and souls as they start to experience the Gospel. In Christ's teachings in Matthew 6:20-21, He said, 'But lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal; For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.' I know there is no other way to find lasting peace than to follow Christ and His Gospel.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Monday, August 29, 2016


[Andrew sent a lot of pictures this week, sorry for the delay in getting them posted.  I was out of town all last week, and a little exhausted when I got home.]

Andrew describes the pictures: 
P-Day at the watefalls of the jungle (1-4)
Having fun with the youth before the baptism (5)
Baptism (6-7)

Of course, baptisms are central and the stuff of dreams to missionaries, so I will explain that awesome opportunity better the next week. Until then, I hope you enjoy some pictures of what my life´s been like these last weeks. Love you all! Later days!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Questions and Answers

People generally have very specific questions about foreign missions that missionaries hardly ever think to answer. Questions about strange food and animals leave single-minded missionaries confused and wondering whether they're talking about some gospel metaphor. Out of the good nature of my heart, I thought I might expound on some temporal matters that may be of some interest.

Q. What kind of strange wild animals do they eat?
A. Chicken and times rice and chicken. In my last area we drank hot jello every day before it could thicken. If that answer's not satisfactory, I've also eaten cuyi a few times, a giant hamster delicacy. Seviche is supposed to be the tastiest Peruvian food, but it's made out of raw fish and has been prohibited in the mission for a long time for all the sicknesses that occurred. Luckily, the ban has been lifted recently from one of our prohibited foods...tocush. Tocush is a potato they rot for a while underwater and then dry until it smells like poop (that's hardly a simile...they are uncannily similar.) You nearly vomit just walking past it in the streets. My last companion was legitimately angry with my little joke before I left when I told our Pensionista we were now allowed to eat it, and she could cook it for my companion whenever she liked. Ah, pobrecito... Meanwhile, I ate wild jungle deer this last week.

Q. What wild crazy animals do you see in the heart of the Peruvian jungle?
A. Dogs. Very rarely do you ever walk on a Peruvian street without seeing several stray dogs. That's just life. In super cool news, I did see a little monkey hanging around a fruit stand recently.

Q. Insects?
A. A couple flying cockroaches. Lots of sugar ants. Nothing surprising.

Q. What are other churches like here?
A. When Paul mentioned tinkling cymbals and sounding brass, he was talking about the churches here. They make lots of noise and shout and sing funny songs, and generally spawn confusion.

Q. What are schools like?
A. They sing and march around quite a bit. We have one on the other side of our street. I help a lot of kids out with their English homework, correct their books that have incorrectly written instructions in them, and recently wrote a severe letter to a university teacher for the quality of the course.

Well, I hope this answered some questions you might have had. I'll send a ton of pictures of the waterfalls we're visiting next week, once I get my darned technology to work. Till next week!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Strength of the Youth

I'm in Summerland, where the climate never changes and our duties revolve around the Youth. Some are preparing for baptism in two weeks, and each one is willing to believe in every doctrine and keep every commandment. They describe the Spirit working in them the best they can in their own words, yet it mirrors so many other experiences that true converts share. 

One particularly powerful lesson this week was with a man with a severe form of anxiety that leads to violent thoughts. The meekness and lowliness it takes to say to two youth, more or less, "I need help and I scare myself when I'm alone, but I think God can heal me," is too powerful to lead to nowhere. I shared Christ's words in 3 Nephi 9:13-14, "Will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?...Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me." My companion promised him if he began to turn regularly to the scriptures when he was alone, the harrowing thoughts would disappear.

The real problem in the jungle is the Law of Chastity. In my last area, this law was fairly easy to keep. It was so cold that everyone had ten coats on, and if anyone got any ideas, they changed their mind after taking off half their layers and put the others back on again to keep warm. Here, no one wears hardly any clothes at all, and one practically breaks the law of chastity by shaking someone's hand. Ah, well, the youth are well meaning and trying to change.

I hope all is well back on the homefront and I miss you all! The church is true! 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Into the Jungle

I´ll miss Junín. We had some  good friends up there, including my Pensionista and her daughter, and her brother who hopefully got baptized two days ago. The President's family were really important to me, and are some of the first people I'll look up when I revisit Peru years from now. I grew so much there...I'll look back on it in the manner that one might faintly remember that mortal thrill of challenge and change, long after taking their heavenly rest in the stately courts above.

Because, oh yes, I'm in Paradise.

The jungle isn't just perfect for its climate, or its strong wards, or the unbelievably successful work. It's everything- waking up in the morning to the sun on your pillow, the sweet air, the prospect of baptizing in pools beside waterfalls, the friendly members with references, all the small things. Yes, after one of my first days I got so violently ill I had to go to the hospital to get some fluids back, but heck, even that was fun. I'm going to be just like my father's father when I grow up...I joked with all the doctors, told complicated Spanish puns as they took my blood, and when I had to knock on a door, it was accompanied with, "It's the missionaries!"  My companion and the Zone Leaders said they never had so much fun in a hospital.

The real focus here is the young men. You know those Mormon Message videos where twenty people all suddenly decide to get baptized or come back to church just based on one invitation and the general ridiculous message seems to be, "This can be your ward too if you just have more faith and invite your friends"? Yeah, those probably started here. We had two young men attending a couple months ago, and by the time I got here, the Elders had brought ten or more back. Three more will be baptized this month, and all are genuine and trying so hard to change. It's magnificent. You hardly walk down the street without tripping on a golden investigator.

Ah, well. I'm exaggerating a bit. Life is wonderful, but it still calls for hard work, and changing the moral trajectory of anyone calls for focus. Nevertheless, I'm quite happy here in my new area. The field is white already to harvest.

Elder Burt, saying goodbye to Junín.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Miracle of the Week

Our Pensionista and her daughter are our best friends in the area. We've been teaching her daughter frequently, but she has never felt comfortable with baptism. Her uncle, however, was extremely close to baptism last month. Let's call him José. José went to to the States about ten years ago, got married, got a job, and learned English. He was a good man, but his wife ended up leaving him which tore him apart. He prayed she would nevertheless find a good way in life, and incidentally she ended up becoming a Mormon. They're on good terms now.

Well, one day when in Utah, José decided he could either go get dead drunk to get over his problems, or try and figure it out some other way. He wandered to the church behind his house, where two missionaries came out and began to talk to him and encourage him. When he returned to California, he sought the missionaries and began to attend church regularly. He was a week before baptism before he inexplicably bailed because he didn't feel like he had received a true confirmation yet. Then he came here to visit, and became the answer to our prayers to help out our situation with his niece. We talked to both of them about the 'coincidences' that led them both to the same church, and asked them if they could focus this month on the idea of baptism. We asked the uncle first if he was ready to make a goal for another baptismal date. He said clearly, in English, "I am ready now. I will get baptized as soon as I return to the States." We told him that was wonderful...but if he got baptized here, he would be an example to his family. He agreed, and intends to be baptized within the following weeks. So that was the miracle of the week. I know God had this family in mind in everything that happened to them. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Time for Those We Are Passing By

In Junín, we are some of the fortunate few missionaries who make our own breakfast. Why is that such a blessing? Firstly, we don't have to walk to our Pension every morning. It's also nice to actually choose what to eat. Finally, the 8 soles we receive daily to pay for the meal are hardly ever used completely, which builds up quite a fund near the end of the month. My first Junín companion and I fondly called it "fondo brekky" and took to using the money for a fairly expensive restaurant outing to buy American popcorn chicken in Tarma. Unfortunately, with the President's new mandate that forever confines us to our own areas on P-Days, there's no way to use the money effectively. We have no other choice but to make up for all the stingy breakfasts we made and buy whatever looks good. 

One morning, as we made our way to a Plan C after a service project fell through, my companion asked me for five little chocolates I'd recently bought. I encouraged him to take half the bag; fondo brekky was ours to enjoy. He took five and shot back toward a family pushing a man in a wheelchair. He gave one to each and we walked them home. The old man with the bad legs loudly and emotionally declared his faith and we gave him a blessing.  Afterward, we hoisted him up on our arms and walked a little with him around the room. The family not only promised to come to church the next day, but actually came. In my four and a half months here, I believe I've seen one other investigator visit the church. To make the experience all the more surreal, the old man's name was Gubercindo. It was a very happy day, and made me thankful for my companion following through on a prompting. As the Lord said to early church missionaries in Doctrine and Covenants 61: 3, "It is not needful for the whole company of elders to be moving swiftly...whilst the inhabitants on either side are perishing in unbelief."  We can always have time for the few whom we are passing by. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Monday, July 18, 2016

No More Strangers

When Paul taught the Ephesians, he knew they had grown up hearing the Jews' self-righteous claim that they were the chosen people of God. While they were to some extent justified in this, by the time of Christ it's clear that as a people they had fallen from the expectations the Lord had for them. It impressed me how Paul acknowledged that the Ephesians previously lived without the Gospel, yet were now invited to take part in it. He risks offending them, but instead makes an inspirational speech about the mercy of God. He begins by drawing them in, relating to them and painting a dismal picture of their past in Ephesians 2:

Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;  That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:

He discards their plight with the hope of his new message-But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.

This fraternal sense of fellowship was no doubt a contrast to the condescension of other Jews the Ephesians knew. There is no middle wall now! We are children of God, and Christ has slain any enmity that existed between us by His cross. And now, you can hear him smile and raise his voice, powerfully and emotionally, "Ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God."  

And what are these blessings that Paul is saying they're so worthy of? The very church of God. He continues in the next verse, "And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the corner stone."  I like to imagine Paul preaching the same message across the ages to our own... "What? Like Christ cares what age you live in?" Yet does the fraternity of the Saints permit us to live in a church guided by prophets, apostles, and revelation. We can depend on the same miracles with the priesthood of God.

Last Monday, as we had just finished up eating our burgers as a zone, one of the workers at the restaurant asked us if we would give her a blessing. I asked her carefully what her knowledge of our church was. She confessed little to no knowledge, just that we as missionaries might be able to help her.  I methodically explained to her the claim we had of possessing the same priesthood found in the church of Christ in the Bible, being restored through a prophet in these days. Eight or so missionaries put their hands on her head in the back room, and the feeling of priesthood power was tangible. When I finished the blessing, we turned to her and the other workers witnessing and made appointments with all of them, each eager to meet with the missionaries who worked in their area. It was a powerful witness to me that we are no longer strangers or foreigners to the blessings of the kingdom of God...rather fellow citizens with the early Saints. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen. 

Monday, July 11, 2016

New Mission President

Hello, all! This week started with the Fourth of July, for which I was very thankful. We love our country, and all of us gringos sang the National Anthem in an American Restaurant to celebrate. We also went to meet the new President Silva and his family in La Merced. I've brought pictures! He spoke little on goals or new rules this first time...he just wanted us to meet his family. Due to many changes of plans and traveling this week, we spent little time in our area. It's begun to rain a lot in Junìn, which we don't mind too much.

Once more, we returned to Tarma yesterday for a conference about the year area plan for Northwest South America. The goals focus on the youth, self-sufficiency, and ordinances. I believe these are good arching goals for an area. If you're a youth, go to seminary and focus on a mission! As a member, be self-sufficient and focus on paying a full tithe and keeping the Sabbath Day holy! If you yet lack one of the ordinances of salvation, work on becoming worthy to take the next step! If everything's golden, do family history. There will always be more to do. Let us waste and wear out our lives bringing to light the secret things of darkness. Bring heaven forward, and let it encompass the harsh realities of today's world. We are capable, and we will eventually win. That's the promise. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Monday, June 27, 2016

New Companion / New Mission President / Finding Families

Transfers arrived this week, bringing me a new companion named Elder Egan. Changes will continue to take place as our Mission President and his wife return to the States. Our new mission president, President Silva, will enter into the field tomorrow. The only constant in the mission field is the work, though it is frequently pinpointed by special opportunities. The other week, we found two families with whom we had lessons this week. Both came from contacting and knocking doors, miraculously, which very rarely happens in Junín. All the more miraculously, one of the families happened to hold a recent convert. We recently were asked to take all the recent converts of our areas for the last two years and give the names of those who were still active, to examine retention. We had five names, one of whom is still attending. All are under 14 years old. We were told one family did not want contact with the church anymore, yet with providence we found the father one day in the street and were pleasantly invited to teach them. My mouth dropped open yesterday when we found out the oldest boy was baptized last year, and that this was the family with whom we would have respectfully kept our distance from had we not found them randomly. While there will be obstacles, I'm certain we found them for a reason.

In the second family we found, we originally contacted the children, ages 7, 8, and 9. Of course, after speaking with them for a few moments, we asked if we could speak with their parents. Their uncle came out, and the girl ran over to him and dramatically cried, "Uncle, they're talking about GOD and I want you to LISTEN!" The nice thing about teaching a family is that the children provide the enthusiasm and the adults provide the responsibility. We begged side-by-side with the children for another visit and cheered when he accepted. We visited with them yesterday, taught the first lesson, and committed them all to come to church the following week when we pass by. Coincidentally, one of their younger uncles is taking the lessons in Cerro de Pasco.

Moroni wrote in the Book of Mormon, "I speak unto you who deny the revelations of God, and say that they are done away, that there are no revelations, nor prophecies, nor gifts, nor healing, nor speaking with tongues, and the interpretation of tongues. Behold, I say unto you, he that denieth these things knoweth not the gospel of Christ; yea, he has not read the scriptures; if so, he does not understand them." (Mormon 9: 7-8) God doesn't change, he explains, and if faith led to miracles in the past, it must surely lead to the same in these days. "I will show unto you a God of miracles", he boldly proclaims, and with such claims we must hold firm and unapologetically confirm it. I know this is true. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Daily Life in Peru

I've begun to realize that I rarely speak of my life on a daily basis in my blog. I apologize for this. When one reads the reflections of one living in a strange land, one must hope in part to read about foreign and interesting experiences. In Junin particularly, my life is pretty interesting.  Most Mondays, we travel an hour out to Tarma, a larger city in which the majority of our zone resides. After some recent emergency transfers, it's there that my old companion resides as a Zone Leader. We travel back Tuesday morning, have a quick District Meeting in our room, and spend the time between the end and lunch browsing the Tuesday Market which stretches through the  town in nearly every street. It makes for a devil of a time trying to visit people later in the day. 

With the tiny size of our branch, much of the responsibility for activities comes to us, which generally makes for good fun. In all of Peru, one day of the week is designated as Mission Night, where people can invite their friends to play games, have a quick message, and perhaps have a treat. I generally share a quick message, and then we play one of the many famous group games here: PedroPablo, Señales, Gato y Ratón, etc.  Most of these games were brought by gringo missionaries, so while they have different names, you'd recognize them if you saw them.  On Saturday, we lead Mutual, which is slightly more stressful now that my companion left who had all the games.  Luckily, the only thing youth like to do here is play soccer, which is very easy to plan. All we have to do is bring a pack of treats. 

We've recently also begun English classes on Saturday night, ever since a group of earnest rockers expressed an interest. We originally found one and while he said he wasn't interested, I noticed his Pink Floyd shirt and we started talking.  He invited the rest of his friends, and now they come to the church, learn vocabulary, a grammar concept, and a translation of one of their favorite songs, which are always awesome.  I've written down a lot of the bands to look up when I get back home. They also opened up in the end and said they'd love to hear our message as well, which we share at the end of each lesson.

Sunday is all the more busy. Once again, with the small branch, we are responsible for a good deal. Nearly every week we give talks, participate in the Sacrament, and teach a two-hour Sunday School Lesson. This last week, we were also very blessed to see one of our less-active youth we've been working with receive the priesthood. We also were very blessed to see the Sacrament Meeting attendance go over 30, which was one of the first goals my companion and I made when I came into the area.  The average attendance from January to March was 16.  In Sunday School, videos are very popular both with us and with the youth we teach.  We participate in Ward Council in the evening as mandated by Peru's Area Presidency to help direct the flow of the meeting and make assignments. 

It's a busy life, but it's a good life. I love the people here and am happy to serve in this cause. A man is free to choose the principles by which he holds himself bound. The level of his consecration is the level of his success. I have not been as devoted as I previously always hoped to be. Part by part, I hope to change. I am thankful that we are all able to do so by the grace and mercy of Christ through his Atonement. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Reflections On Growth

Had there been one selfish reason for which the mission held me captivated, it would be the change it promises. We are such that spiritual stagnation is contrary to our comfort, and just as small children struggle to sit still, we grow frustrated at a lack of progression. The difficulties a mission promised seemed a straight shot out of immaturity as powerful as any coming of age story. When the meat and the substance of such challenges do their surgical work, the grimness of the operating room ought not to be viewed in isolation from the future results we so long desired. Elder Maxwell once noted we sometimes beg to be freed from trial when the result would be an incomplete process, thereby invalidating all past sufferings. By bailing on God's plan, we find ourselves jaded at the senselessness of being cut open without permitting Him to sew us back up. Hemingway found himself in such a state after extreme trials when he told the world in complete disillusionment, "The world breaks everyone...and those who will not break it kills."  Or Eliot's gloom, "Between the idea/and the reality...falls the shadow."  I would contest the shadow falls between the reality and the waiting, for between these so many minds are darkened.

Another more hopeful poet expressed some confidence in God's ability to raise us "beyond this rugged veil of mortal tears" in His way, perhaps the veil made rugged by 'tears' torn in our resolve. Our patience is paramount to the process. Such is seen in the mission, which is a kind of compacted life, and such is seen in mortality. I know God's plan demands our cooperation. 

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Doing the Right Thing

Life rolls on in Junin, and things are looking up. The weekdays were discouraging, and we hardly found anyone to speak to, day after day. This is particularly not fun when the mornings freeze, the afternoons scald, and the nights' temperature dips down again. Once the weekend hit, we began seeing a lot more results from our work. While our attendance didn't rocket upward, nearly half of the attendance was less active members we've been working with. Many of them have interviews scheduled with the President to talk about progressing, and among those who came included both the less active men who used to be the Branch Presidents. We're still on the edge waiting for the baptism of our good friend, the daughter of our Pension, but she is diligently reading the scriptures and taking the lessons and going to church. 

We're recognizing the real results of all our work the last couple months. Some families we've finally decided to stop visiting for their lack of interest. We had a very serious lesson with one about the decisions they had to make and their continual lack of effort to keep promises. When we saw even such an earnest discussion as this did nothing, we decided to dedicate our time elsewhere. Mission decisions such as this are extremely difficult...these were recent converts and a family we are well acquainted with. Yet time will always be a factor we need to keep in mind, and the shower of blessings we are seeing elsewhere is an indication of what we need to do.

Doing the right thing has always been a chief worry in my life. I am so blessed to live in this time where that question can be quieted to some extent. There are many other worries in mission life, and I won't pretend the work isn't at times discouraging here. We're all told going to South American missions that the success will be flying, and the people are lining up to have gospel change their lives. The disillusionment was difficult and discouraging. Yet the truth is, the work can never be easy. As Elder Holland once said in one of his most inspirational talks, salvation is not a cheap experience. It never was. Why should we expect it to be for us when it never was for Christ?  If He gave His life in what was more or less the most important missionary work the world has seen, how can we expect conversion and following Him to be easy? It never will be...the only thing we can be sure of is that it's worth it. And that by participating in such a work, we are standing with the greatest man who ever lived. To all the invitation comes and to all the privilege is issued. Accepting it is what this life experience is about.

From Zone Conference last week. Elder Burt is 3rd from left, standing.

Monday, May 23, 2016

A Taste of the Jungle

I've never been one for the jungle as a story setting. It always seems to take control of the plot, and is so exotic that it's hard to relate to. When I heard there was a good deal of jungle in our mission, I was excited to visit something so different, but not ridiculously anxious. We recently spent a couple days there for a multi-zone conference. My perspective changed a little.

Let's start with the air.  The atmosphere is thick and hot, opposite to the Junin atmosphere so thin that oxygen comes at one breath's worth of air for the price of two. The air was sweet, and reminded me of vacation. Strips of evaporated water floated around hills of jungle forestry framed by the branches and vines of nearer plant life stretching into the sky. We stayed in a hotel where a thin sheet replaced the five heavy wool blankets I'm used to, a refreshing fan blowing over the room while we watched church videos on the TV. Cold water is all they have for the showers in the jungle, but it hardly matters at all. We had nothing to do while we waited the night before the multi-zone, so we played cards, caught up with other zones who were staying there as well, and played foosball. I was in paradise. Our dinner was spread on wood tables outside underneath a covering. Bugs hummed in the background. It was the most refreshing experience I'd had in a long while, and I think I woke up the next morning smiling. It continued as we had an enlightening conference with our mission president.

When I returned, luckily, the successful work load of the remaining week kept my mind off of paradise. We're happy where we are, and we're looking forward to the progression of the area. I wouldn't mind serving in the jungle one of these days, though!

Ah. Did I take pictures? Hum, I suppose that's all for this week! Till next time! I go back to the jungle for another conference in three weeks!

Monday, May 16, 2016

On Faith

This week was a strong success, and we were elated to spend it inside the homes of many. Usually we don't get lots of lessons in Junin, but things worked differently this time. Many people we visited had suddenly been shattered by recent devastating experiences. While this concerned us, it did soften their hearts to listen to our message, and we could provide comfort and support. Many expressed the need only to have someone who cared enough to check on them and talk them through it, as it was awful to bear alone.  I believe that upon seeing the situations turn out alright, their faith in God will increase.

Faith is not just a principle of hope in the future, nor does it rest in reliance on blessings yet to come. At one point this week, I prayed for heavenly direction according to what my faith merited. In other words, I wanted a bank withdrawal, cashing in on my faith for what it was worth.  Is this the currency of heaven, a system in which miracles, blessings, and spiritual promptings come as we reach certain levels of faith?  On the contrary, I think part of faith is merely placing greater worth in what we have. Rather than upgrading to what my faith merited, I found that what we already have becomes more than what we merit. In belief, we find God's discourses in the Scriptures; a personal Almighty Father listening to our concerns; a modern prophet guided by revelation; and unbreakable purpose to our actions. Outside of belief, all monumental blessings such as these become mere cultural traditions to provide a relief to spiritual concern.

As faith increases, so then does an understanding that we have far more than we 'merit'. By faith then is the entire world transformed, and steps in our lives carry dramatic import. By so believing, my mission rises from a valuable foreign experience -- to an indispensable growth opportunity -- to an eternally significant service -- to their service to my deepest desires granted, all inextricably connected and rising on to something understood fully only on some distant day when all promises are fulfilled. 

Such faith's fate at the end of its evolution is not, I think, only knowledge...for Hebrews 11 says God created worlds without end through faith rather than factual understanding. Faith, then, ought to be our goal. For through it and the action it demands we wax transcendent. 

In the name of Jesus Christ, the center of faith in this world, Amen.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Adventures in Sharing the Gospel

Elder Burt and Elder Granstaff
Well, here I am emailing on Tuesday...a little late as we were exploring deep underground caves all of yesterday for P-Day. As missionaries, we're always looking for opportunities to preach the gospel, and we did so to all we encountered. We found a small kid named Tom Sawyer looking for buried treasure...we explained we had a treasure that would never rust even unto the next life, but he said he never believed in any of that religious hogwash anyways. He refuses to stay in church for all three hours, so we figured it's time to drop him. Deeper down, we found a real strange investigator named Smeagol, but he's got some powerful addiction problems and may take quite a bit of time to help. He struggled with the concept of tithing, too... ´Gives one of my ten fishes away to a fat gringo, always stuffing their faces???´  We found a really cool cave down a bit called the Chamber of Secrets, but Tom Riddle had already formed some Secret Combinations named the Death Eaters, and we figured that might put a halt on progress. The Goonies just swore at us.

Sometimes missionary work is hard, but it's always adventurous. We  share our testimonies and know that is enough. As the Lord said in Doctrine and Covenants 127:4, "Let...all the works which I have appointed unto you, be continued and not cease; and let your diligence, and your perseverance, and your patience, and your works be redoubled, and you shall in nowise lose your reward. And if they persecute you, so persecuted they the prophets and righteous men before you. For all this there is a reward in heaven."

I know this is true, and I know we ought to continue on without fear, but rather with joy and trust. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.   

Monday, May 2, 2016

Growing the Branch

[Today Andrew spent time answering a question about his branch in Junín, particularly about attendance and their efforts to re-activate many people around the town.]

Attendance is looking optimistic, it used to be in the teens a lot before I got here, and now we're regularly in the mid-twenties with several less-actives attending. We want to get over thirty before we leave, as President said a decent branch should have more than thirty.

Andrew relaxing in his blanket fort.
This week we spoke to a number of less-actives. My favorite sort of lesson is when the atmosphere is quiet, the limited room causes us to sit right next to our investigator/less active, and we can just have a very quiet, personal conversation. Opportunities such as that allow both of us to feel the Spirit strongly as we share the story of the Restoration. I also enjoy the strength in teaching a family, where all can participate and feel gathered in an activity. 

We spend a lot of time with the Youth, too, being completely in charge of them. We play simple games with them for Mutual like Liar's Dice and Uno.  We're also in charge of two-hour lessons with them on Sunday! We show a lot of videos, haha.

[Andrew will be Skyping with us next Sunday for Mother's Day (hopefully) and we're very excited!  We'll post some pictures and perhaps transcribe some of our conversation.]

Monday, April 25, 2016

Divisions in Tarma

I spent a significant amount of time this week outside my area. We spent P-Day in Tarma again, but I remained there another day to do Divisions (splits) with one of our Zone Leaders as one of them returned with my companion, a District Leader.  Tarma is a large city in a valley, washing up in the hills surrounding the area. As we began our work, I noticed how much Zone Leaders have to worry about outside the normal work. As he spoke animatedly with the man who was renting the Hermanas' house trying to lower the price, and the Hermanas listened pensively, I stood quietly and patiently a little behind. Suddenly, a long line of children passed by led by a teacher on their way to school. Always enthused to see a gringo, one waved at me timidly. I waved back and greeted him cheerfully, which boosted the confidence of the other several dozen children. The conversation behind me stumbled for a few minutes as the street erupted into cheers and shouts and stilted "hel-lo's" until I waved the last one by. I enjoyed the divisions.

We only had a short break in the middle of the week before we were off once more to San Pedro de Cajas, the other area in our district. We are the two towns in the middle of nowhere, isolated by an hour or so from the others in the zone. San Pedro's, however, is even smaller than Junín (and much greener), half the population consisting of sheep. Rumor has it the town used to be called San Pedro de Cacas (Saint Peter of Poop) before some heroic citizen changed that vital ´c´ into a ´j´, turning Saint Peter´s dominion into the slightly less mundane Boxes. Their central plaza, like most, has some iconic statues- the central one is the patron saint with his finger and his thumb in the shape of an L dangerously close to his forehead. The other symbolizes the model citizen- a colorful old woman stooped over knitting away furiously, real yarn looped in her fingers. The other half of the population not grazing in pastures consists of similar women. We were there for two reasons- firstly for another set of divisions and secondly a Zone Attack. For difficult areas, sometimes the zone will designate a day in which all missionaries will arrive and contact nearly everyone, giving a jump start to the area. I'm a supporter in such acts of unity of the zone, and hope it did some good.

When we came back, a highlight included a Family Home Evening we had with our Pensionista and her daughter, not members of the church. Practically the whole branch came and we shared a message, played games, and generally had a good time. The daughter confessed some increased interest in the church recently and has been attending regularly. Unfortunately, she goes for Lima today. 

Well, it was a great week. I hope you all enjoyed the week too, and recognize the little good parts of life- for by small and simple things are great things brought to pass. Life is good!

Monday, April 18, 2016

A Memorable Week

Stone fences and half finished house frames furnish rocky green fields. The paved town center branches out into dirt roads as one passes by the Plaza of Arms (with great statues of old war heroes rearing on horses), the railway tracks, and street corner shops. Every Tuesday, a maze of a market appears with slick vendors shouting miracle cures and vegetables rolling around the ground. Men relieve themselves wherever and whenever nature calls, causing some wise property owners to hastily write "Urinating is Prohibited" on their walls. Sheep pass unhurriedly by, sometimes accompanied by a llama or two.

This week was memorable. We spent a good portion of one day installing our underground piping to get water in our house. We also had a busy week teaching a lot of less actives, which paid off. A decent number of them came to church, which made for a happy Sunday. I like serving in branches such as this. My last area certainly had its perks, but with a large ward it's hard to get to know the members. Here, we're in charge of the Young Men's program; the President of the Branch is always willing to help on visits; and we know nearly all the members by name. This is an area I'll remember, proved by an unexpected meeting in the little house of a member. We found a couple from Utah sitting on the couch chatting with the President of the Branch and others. Brother Newton, as it turned out, served here twelve years ago. He and his wife animated us, promised our work and assured us it would make a difference. It encouraged us to strengthen the branch, and we left certain we'd be the missionaries to do whatever it took to lift this branch back on its feet. We are incredibly grateful for their influence, and we are seeing miraculous changes occur in the area. 

We are here to overcome difficulties. And we will do so. Those with midnight consciences often only need someone to light a candle to recognize it's dark. With that, the sheep will shed wolves' clothing and the Shepherd will rescue them.

Monday, April 4, 2016


So I've been transferred to Junin this time around! I'm with an Elder Grandstaff (from Washington as well), and it's cold!  I bought a scarf, and luckily they've got a warm jacket for whatever missionary comes in here. We're also the only area that gets bikes in the mission...though one of my pedals doesn't work and the seat is at a 45 degree angle, haha-  we might be walking more than anything. 

We went to a city named Tarma for Conference, and we're here for the weekend with the zone. General Conference was, of course, a highlight for the week as I really enjoyed the talks. President Uchtdorf and Elder Holland's were definitely the most powerful for me. However, Elder Bednar's was also really cool and deserves extra study. I enjoyed that he says the way we retain the remission of our sins was by the Spirit. The promise in the Sacrament is the Spirit, and the way we retain a remission of our sins is by the Sacrament. It clicked for me. Elder Rasband's and Renlund's were cool for me, too. I liked that President Eyring told us to look for pure testimony in the conference and feel the spirit.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Hero in Our Stories

[This week, Andrew sent a very thoughtful (and deep!) blog entry.  Admittedly, I had to read and re-read this a few times -- especially the first paragraph.  But each time I did, I gained more insight and understanding.  I don't know everything that he is experiencing in Peru, but I can tell those experiences are making an impact.]

If we speak in terms of stories, reality holds an interesting place. Unbound by tethers of entertainment and popularity, God can direct our lives in the most necessary course rather than what we would find to be the most compelling narrative. As a cohesive story--one with obvious causes and effects--fades as far as our mortal minds can see, some lose faith. Debilitating and harmful experiences that have no immediate explanation go so contrary to a loving and almighty God that belief seems illogical. In a culture of stories filled with modern sarcasm, anti-heroes, and moral debates, simplicity becomes weak. How can a humble teacher who taught about kindness and love be our Savior? How can a perfect person (modernly portrayed as some comic holiness) know anything about the world? What's real perfection, anyway, when Utopian literature always points to something sinister, and flaws seem so philosophically important to ground a society?

We worry too much. God is our loving Heavenly Father. He sent us here to gain experience and grow. Weakness and sin will oppose us, but as we struggle, we gain spiritual strength. Faults are not eternal, nor is pain. They are part of a very brief experience. We overcome such obstacles through Christ, who was strong enough to overcome not only his temptations but all of ours. Though He suffered all, He ultimately conquered and rose again, taking up immortality and promising His real and complete joy to all who accept it. Yet it requires all our attention, and all our acceptance. He will not force salvation on us.

But if we choose the Gospel, He'll heal the young man panicked at the responsibility of the two-year-old "mistake" he loves more than anything. He'll heal the man consumed by the weight of his calling in life. He'll heal the drunk cripple, and the overwhelmed mother who's running away from her past. He'll heal them who plead for forgiveness and those who need to grant it. I've seen each one of these characters either accept it or run away after they've experienced a moment's repose.

In the end, we just need to recognize we're not the hero in our own story. In the name of the Hero, Jesus Christ, amen.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Multi-Zone P-Day

This will be a short blog this week! Just a little update: This week we had a multi-zone conference. This also meant we had a multi-zone P-Day, with a good number of missionaries from the surrounding areas. We played soccer on a correctly-sized field, which is too rare here. After feeling content and tired with the few hours we'd been playing, Elder Cornilles and I decided to head back to our area. Perhaps it was inspiration. We heard the next day a giant gust of wind rose up in the park. One of our friends rose up his hands and jokingly shrieked, "Repent Ye!", only to be alarmed as the wind turned into a small tornado, whipping the roof off a nearby building and sending it flying toward the missionaries. One of them actually got gauged in the leg, but thankfully he's alright now. 

The following day, we had the conference, in which President Henderson focused on Ezra Taft Benson's "Beware of Pride" talk he had previously handed out to us. That took center stage this week. Sorry for the short post- I'll write more next week!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Acting on the Promptings of the Spirit

We are privileged as missionaries to witness the power of the priesthood. We intend to change the lives of those we teach yet see such a change come far more readily from the power and authority of God than from our own knowledge or lesson plans. Ordinances such as baptism with the proper priesthood authority are pivots in lives that align us with the Gospel. Blessings can be far stronger witnesses of the validity of our claim than lectures. We follow the same steps as were instituted in the New Testament, as seen in many scriptural accounts. One such example is found in James 5:14-15: "Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up..." 

We performed a great number of blessings this week- six, I think, in total- with faith in the assurance that the Spirit will guide us in what we say. While we can always count on some form of guidance, at times it's stronger than others. I gave a blessing to a cousin of a member, and the confidence and faith that anchored me in the appropriate words to give were tangible. Very few times do I feel comfortable declaring someone will be healed rather than that they'll receive patience and spiritual strength during necessary trials. This time I could promise healing and an ensuing testimony in the gospel without doubt.
I remember President Monson saying once the happiest feeling he'd ever found was acting on a prompting and later finding out he had been the means by which God had answered a prayer. In the same vein, I think in general acting on the whisperings of the Spirit gives the greatest sense of fulfillment in life. It's a powerful and peaceful rest I receive from so frequently worrying over what lack I yet. Complete freedom from doubts would result in spiritual stagnation. A healthy fear of disappointing our Father in Heaven spurs us to follow His guidance. Yet momentary repose from such fearful self-reflection, when based on spiritual promptings, is welcome. I know we will receive them more frequently as we continually strive to do what is right. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.