Monday, January 25, 2016

Mantaro, Huancayo

Another week goes by in Mantaro, Huancayo. I've finally told all my jokes to my first gringo companion (puns are hard to translate to Latinos). The chapel looks like a real chapel, and the ward council actually does everything they can to help us. The Elder from the office who deals with mail and packages eats with us, so what used to take about a month to get to me, now takes about a week. I also got a large bundle of letters that my training center back in Lima finally figured they'd send to me...six months later. With that, I can now triumphantly say I've completed the Sister Tryon Collection since the end of July- Huzzah (and thank you, Sister Tryon)! I also got a much anticipated letter from my good friend Michael Chaney, which made me incredibly happy. To all you friends who have written to me:  while SerPost is letting us receive letters alright, I hear we can't yet send them out. So while I have written you, I might not be able to send it for a while. Sorry!

I like my new zone- one of my new zone leaders is literally a 20-year-old version of Brother Calvert, my first seminary teacher. Makes me happy- same looks, same sense of humor, same everything, haha. I'm in the same zone as my old MTC companion, Elder Johnson, too, which is awesome. The area itself brings new people with whom we work. One is an old man who lost all cartilage in his shoulder and hip. He was converted about a year ago...he certainly must have been one memorable for the missionaries- changing someone from a practically homeless, drunk, cripple to a sober man who receives warm meals daily from members and can go to church weekly feeling respectable in a white shirt and tie must have been an amazing experience. As he can't read, we read the scriptures with him each day for a bit.

We also taught a man and his son who live way out in the outskirts of our area, where my agricultural vision of Peru is slightly more realized. A lot of the workers out there are actually employed by this man. The missionaries have been teaching him for a while, but this week we taught father and son together, and they both came to church! He hadn't come for about three months, so I'm hoping that together they'll begin in earnest. The ward is helping admirably to support them in friendship.

We had a worldwide mission conference, and I liked something Elder Bednar said: "The Spirit isn't our instrument for conversion, we're the instruments of the Spirit."  I felt this strongly this week as we were teaching a part-member family. We were focusing on the Dad, and I started in on Joseph Smith's first vision, manifesting that miracles and revelation are possible in this day just as much as the past. This time particularly, I felt an incredible power in the words pulsing through me and transforming the lesson. I wanted to keep that moment going for as long as I lived. The father met my eyes, and I could see him feel the witness we promise to people confirming the truthfulness of the message. However, in time he shook it off and basically said, "wow that's really cool... thank you very much... I'll definitely read the Book of Mormon which is interesting because I know a lot about ancient American history which I'll now demonstrate, and if you try talking good luck because I'll just keep going." I felt sad that he so feebly tried to escape what he felt, but my companion told me that the daughter we've been trying to baptize had been utterly riveted by the Spirit she felt in the account, hanging on every word we spoke. I'd been focused on the wrong person, but the Spirit nevertheless did the work He knew was necessary. And that's the lesson we'll always find to be true. As long as we do our best to help others, the Spirit will ensure that what really has to happen will be accomplished. Go watch the video of The Restoration and just listen to what you feel. It will be powerful. I love you all, and hope you're all doing well. Adios for now!

Monday, January 18, 2016


Elder Burt with his new companion, Elder Cornilles
I'm in Huancayo, living the city life now! My companion is a good friend I had my first two transfers before he got transferred here. We joked around that we'd be companions down the road, and here we are! We live about twenty minutes out from the mission office, and two of the Elders in the office began working in our area this transfer, too, when they have time. We eat dinner with them, and the first night they brought Pizza Hut. That was ridiculously weird for me. I feel like I'm emerging after 4 and a half months of Paucarbamban life into a new world. Huancayo is still radically different from the States, but it's certainly another experience after Huanuco. The sunsets are outstanding here, with the open skies and the interesting cloud covers. 

These last couple days, I think we were laying the groundwork for the rest of the transfer. A whole lot of appointments fell through, so we contacted a great deal. We're already seeing a couple of them become investigators, so I have high hopes.

The trick is to use your time effectively. Every missionary, more or less, spends the same amount of time in the work, so you have to figure out how to heighten the results of your time proselyting, or studying. I think the lessons I'm learning apply to life in general.
  1. Always do what you can for a lesson, but if your opportunities fall through, cut your losses and contact. Many missionaries pinball from potential lesson to potential lesson, hoping desperately an investigator will let them in with no set appointment. Generally, this ends in an hour where nothing gets done. In life, if you want something to happen and it doesn't, find something else productive to do. Even if it's not as good as your Plan A, refusing to focus on something else is worse. For instance, if a dream job falls through, start looking for a different one instead of hoping something might change.
  2. If people aren't going to progress in the gospel, nor want to keep commitments, spend your time on others. This was not a lesson I wanted to learn, because the worth of every soul is great in the sight of God. How can you just forget someone because it's a busy time in their life and they feel too overwhelmed to attend church or read the Book of Mormon just yet?  Eternal salvation is at stake! The truth is, there are countless people in our areas who could progress. Spending weeks upon weeks on a good person to "set the stage" for a future missionary to convert him or her is not as effective as finding a good number of people who are ready now. Don't spend all your time on a project or portion of your life if it's impeding or choking all the other good things you've got. I would imagine this applies, for instance, to relationships- saving one isn't worth all the others.
  3. Always do something productive. Even if I need a rest at the end of a long day, I can rest by reading Conference addresses or something else. Look around for people who need help, and give the extra effort to be friendly. Time is short, and sitting around listening to music or watching Netflix a ton is like burning money. Don't do it.

Well, I'm trying to improve as much as I can, but I've got a long way to go. Be effective in your life. Know your limits and try to reach them without becoming overwhelmed. It's possible, and as I like to say, our capacity is our responsibility. Hold fast, and keep moving forward! In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Monday, January 11, 2016

A Successful Week

This was a super successful week. Last P-Day, to start off, we visited the house of the Perricholi, a historical figure of Huanuco who (almost?) married some king of Spain or other. I had been under the impression she was a princess, with the wishing well, carriage, and little wizard hut, so it was kind of disappointing that she was just romantically linked to some foreigner.

The work week began with divisions, I went to the area of my district leader, while he came to mine. A fresh area makes being a missionary feel new again- you don't have the connections you have in your area, but it's easier to avoid routines.  As the week continued, my companion and I had the most successful week I've had in the mission so far, as far as visiting a great number of people and moving forward with them.

We unearthed a family from one of our little investigators. He's been meeting with us with his aunt, so I was a little worried that when we finally got an opportunity to talk with his mom, she would be suspicious of the missionaries who were trying to convert her eleven-year-old son. Luckily, she's all for it, and wants to be baptized, too, with her other son! Hurray, now we just have to teach them and get them to church! They came this week, which is a great sign. Our little guy is awesome; he's an intelligent, earnest kid with little glasses and a small, happy voice. He can plan like an adult. He stopped me in the doorway after we talked to his mom and reminded me to give him another chapter in the Book of Mormon to read, and asked about the schedules for activities in the church. In church, at the end, he asked timidly when I was going to leave and go back to the States. I paused, knowing that I might be leaving the area this Wednesday, and that our next appointment was Thursday. I explained I wouldn't leave Peru for another year and half, but it was possible that I could go serve somewhere else this week. He asked for my number, Facebook, and mailing address, which broke my heart a little.

In all, it was a good week! Each day was packed tight with lessons, and I feel like we've really become helpers and friends to the people here. We feel a part of the Paucarbamba family. I think I could make my way around the town blindfolded, past the little shop, past the carpenter who always waves and shouts hello, thinking it's hilarious when I shout hello back, away from the church, through the park in which we keep our eyes down to avoid eye contact with the couples on the benches, past the internet service our investigators started, up the way to the other grassy park, and the final parallel streets.

I thought about a scripture in the book of Hebrews this week in chapter 6. In verses 10-12. "For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises." Hoping is active; we keep busy and we understand God isn't just going to forget what we're doing right.  All the same, the scripture says, don't stop. Don't ever stop, content, when there's more to do. President Eyring once noted that after Christ completed the Atonement, he went up to the Spirit world and organized the missionary work up there (1 Peter 3:19). "When my body begs for rest," President Eyring said, "I give to my heart this rallying cry- Remember Him!" So we continue, and we inherit the promises.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Monday, January 4, 2016

New Year Thoughts

Hello, New Year's, my old friend. I've come to talk with you again. 

I remember three or four years ago when this holiday began to get me thinking. If there's anything a fresh start signifies to me, it's the potential the ensuing story has. In our great mortal gift of choice, we might make our lives as wonderful as we are willing to attempt. The concept that every day will possibly be something hilarious or magnificent or absurd led me to decide one morning that "Today" could be "The Day". This idea is illustrated one drab day my Junior Year when my good friends Michael Chaney and Joey Donahue endeavored to cheer me up by convincing me they knew something I didn't, and that today really was "the day". Unbeknownst to them, all the power in the school would shut down, cancelling some classes and very nearly my daunting math test. I can't explain the awe I felt that my friends would go to such drastic means to make me feel better. Luckily, they had nothing to do with it...but it was a good day.

This is all well and good as a hopeful and optimistic perspective of life, but what Fitzgerald calls the "green light" tends to scorch me on New Year's. What could you make happen in one year? Could you reach a point where the breadth of symphonies or the powerful themes and storylines in books and movies are made manifest in your life? How do you balance a satisfaction in your present life with a desire to improve powerful enough to function?  I think of an inspirational speech I used to listen to where the speaker mentions a drowning man whose only thought is trying to breathe again. "When you want to succeed as much as you want to breathe," he shouts, "when you'd give anything to reach it, when you'd spend your last dime, that's when you'll succeed." 

Well, in 2014, I finally decided I'd apply it and stop just thinking about it. I had plans to significantly impact my school, help my cross-country team finally reach State, and generally make life as great as I knew it could be. It was definitely a happy year from day to day, largely thanks to how content I was with my friends and family. Yet in the end, all my plans ultimately failed and I found myself, on New Year's 2015, becoming very introspective and wanting to know how I was going to muster up the same enthusiasm I used to have. Somewhat despondently, I decided if I gave all my efforts to something that's right, the consequences didn't mean anything. This might sound deceptively noble, but it's really a miserable philosophy that disregards the eternal principle that ultimately all good will lead to good and all evil to evil. Nevertheless, I began the year waking up for seminary, going to school, working at a pizza shop driving past my track team's triumphant meets, going home, refusing to go to sleep until doing a bit of homework along with a personal schedule of religious studies and physical exercises, and concernedly watching my consequent grades drop from the shiny A's I'd always naturally aspired to.

Nevertheless, I was very happy. How could I not be, with "T-Corps" adventure trips with my friends, or the support and humor of the "Goon Squad" friends at school, or the distance team, or my Mormon group of friends, or my family, or the countless other people whose company I genuinely enjoyed? And finally I began my mission. If there's anything that matches my hope for a meaningful, brilliant, joyful life, it's spending all my efforts trying to bring eternal joy to the inhabitants of a foreign land. Jesus Christ is the assurance that all our efforts will eventually hold eternal weight. I think after this I'll drop the importance I placed on New Year's. That was unhealthy, I think. But what's one more year to give everything for something grand, eh? One year, complete in the mission. Why not exchange my year for another's eternity?

The clearest celestial answer I've received on these thoughts, I found in the CCM (training center) quite urgently searching for this answer I've been seeking for years. Is it possible? Everything I'm looking for? The miracles we find are possible in the scriptures? I read my favorite scripture, that I'd read a dozen times, just looking for peace. And you know what I found? Alma 26:22. Aw, heck, once more into the breach!