Monday, February 29, 2016

Missionary Adventures / Zombie Apocalypse / Contrasting Heroes

Very few things progressed this week. We have a great number of strong investigators, but they all belong to two families. If one of those families is traveling and the other has family in town...lessons drop pretty fast. It also doesn't help that all of our half-hearted investigators demonstrated very clearly that they will never complete their commitments. We're in desperate need of new investigators and less actives, and while we've received prospects, we'll need to see how the following week unfolds.

Luckily, the adventures of a missionary never cease. There are the drunks with dark red eyes that always stop us in the streets. "Please save me," they sob, "I'm a sinner." They look at the beer in their hand and yelp, "Augh, I'm sinning! Save me, brother!" It's strengthened my testimony about the Word of Wisdom, speaking against alcohol consumption. The working class of Peru have been driven mad by strong drink, and they ruin the lives of a good many other people we work with. We also live in a bit of a Zombie Apocalypse, in the thousands of dogs that live in the streets. If any of them bite you, you're immediately shipped out of your area to get a rabies shot. My companion's luckily a dog whisperer who insists the dogs just need signs of love- he was even able to tame the legendary Three Corners Park gang of ferocious, literally insane dogs.

Ah well, we'll see what the next week brings. I hope you're all reading The Book of Mormon regularly. If you need something new to study, go to Alma 46-62 and write a compare and contrast paper between Captain Moroni and Teancum, and the similar relationship between Superman and Batman. Moroni's the classic ideal for everyone to strive for: he's the chief captain of all the Nephite armies, and if duty calls for it, he might just have to flex and rip off his shirt to write a rallying cry for his people to rise and fight. If everyone was like him, the scriptures say, the very gates of Hell would tremble. He only let his mighty righteous anger get the best of him once, and that was only when he thought the Chief Judge of the land was withholding supplies from his perishing armies. We all look up to a hero like that.

Teancum, on the other hand, is a little further in the background. Maybe the other Nephite captains questioned the morality of his tendency to go out in the middle of the night and assassinate the opposing tyrant. The scriptures say every one of his sub-army under Captain Moroni was skilled and able, and they usually took jobs such as a decoy little army to draw out the Lamanites. Some tragedy from his tortured past drove Teancum to decide his fight against the Lamanites was personal, and while Captain Moroni prepared for the last grand triumphant battle of the war, Teancum slipped out of the war camp. Swinging on a cord through enemy territory in the middle of the night, he searched for the King's tent. When he finally found him, he cast a javelin in his heart. The alarm was raised, Teancum found himself alone with all the king's soldiers closing in on him in enemy territory, and finally he gets killed in his escape attempt. I think the scriptures are interesting, haha, and I like the examples of heroism we have in them. They're worth our time. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Humility and Conversion

He's a humble single father who lives a little past the outskirts of town. We walk down a long dirt road to get to his house, passing by strange old women and try to speak with them before we see the cocoa leaves (an abused mild narcotic) tumbling heedlessly from their mouths. We pass by cornfields and pigs until we reach his house, neighbored by his huge factory of kitchen appliances. He's probably one of the richest men in Huancayo...I've never seen so many ovens in one place before. I'm reminded of Alma's discourse to the poor Zoramites, explaining to them their impoverished state was a blessing because they would be humble- a far more precious attribute than riches. But, he says, "He that truly humbleth himself, and repenteth of his sins, and endureth to the end, the same shall be blessed-yea, much more blessed than they who are compelled to be humble because of their exceeding poverty." (Alma 32:15) As we taught him each principle and asked him if he had any questions, he would pause thoughtfully, then rephrase what we said, expounding on it powerfully, and nod his head submissively saying, "Yes, I believe I understand that." As we prepared him for his baptism, he explained his chief desire was to serve others- his workers, his family, his friends- with the strength the gospel could give him. With his considerable sphere of influence, he will have ample opportunity.

So on Saturday, he was baptized. He had expressed some passing hope the water wouldn't be cold, so before the service we set to work on figuring out the impossible machine outside in a shed. Literally no one in the ward can get it working except the Bishop, who was travelling. I thought I left inconvenience behind in Paucarbamba- that was very silly of me. We finally got the Bishop on the phone with the Ward Mission Leader. We urgently emptied the cupboards of teacups to fill the water pump bit by bit at the same time our Mission Leader was looking in a hand mirror underneath the heater to find where we needed to light some paper towels on fire while pressing several buttons at once in order to start it up. Finally, to our victory, we saw... a little Bunson Burner pop on, making the pipe through which the water was tearing through nice and luke warm in one place. A little later, Elder Cornilles and I returned for one last chance. Elder Cornilles had a stroke of inspiration. "Turn the switch from 'Pilot' light to On!" We were greeted by a fiery blast from the furnace. Half an hour later, as the service began, the water temperature successfully had risen a couple degrees. 

As difficult as it was, the impact of the baptism infinitely outweighed whatever effort we put forth. This is a good man, and in the community he is now in, with the gospel in his life, he will do a world of good. I was very thankful to take a part in his conversion process to Christ. 

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Monday, February 8, 2016

It's All Good

Hello! We hiked a mountain today, so I didn't have a ton of time to prepare a message for today. However, this was a solid week, in part because Elder Cornilles and I turned our apartment into a real home. We found a bunch of 70's church photos of Primary classes and Brady-Bunch style families, and hang dozens up in our little narrow hallway. My companion also has an impressive collection of 70's Mormon music which is... indescribable.  It's the weirdest, most-lovable soundtrack to our lives I could have hoped for. We play it on repeat. Some lyrics include, "I'll bring you a rainbow from high up above / Send you a sunbeam plump full of love."  We also got tired of our drab little room, so we threw up the bed frames and made a giant blanket fort. 

Elder Cornilles and Elder Burt, waiting for a bus.
Of course, the important parts of the week occurred outside of the apartment. We have a less-active family we're helping come back to church as one of the daughters prepares for her baptism. We have an amazing, meek, ready family who's attending church- the father is completely set, but we've still got a bit of work to do with his sister and son. We've also got a young couple who are eagerly listening to and agreeing with all we teach, and they're completing their reading commitments. There's a teenager who just told us happily yesterday that he's sharing the Book of Mormon with his family, praying, and feeling closer to God than ever before. And there's a mother and son who are exuberant for baptism, but unfortunately don't yet understand the importance of church attendance. We have, in other words, a large pool of potential and that makes the work all the more exciting. Hope all is well back home, and I'm so glad for the opportunities I have up here!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Even the Least of These

This week was super successful- we received a great many references from members to visit friends and family of theirs, which is always more effective than contacting in the street. Quite a few have become new investigators. One of particular note was a woman who received all the lessons several months ago, but only now feels ready to be baptized. Her son chimed in and says he wants to be baptized, too. We just need to get them to church a few times. The investigators who came last week- the wealthy yet humble man who lives way out with his son- also brought his sister this time around, and we'll continue to prepare them for baptism. Things are going well- better than I've ever seen, really. I'm hoping it all carries through.
We also had a fun church activity with all sorts of different things to do in each room. There was a cooking class, a "theater", the outdoor basketball court, and "church", where you could sit quietly and read the scriptures. In the end, my companion and I put on our baptismal clothing and as solemn gringo angels, ushered everyone into the same room together. It was then explained that the activity was an analogy for life, and very few people spent time on what mattered- scriptures and church. I thought it was an unfair trick to play on everyone, inviting them to an activity to mingle, and then lecturing them when they didn't choose to sit alone reading. But I suppose it was more food for thought than anything.

I was reading Our Heritage the other day, and enjoyed the time to think on our predecessors and the great history of the church in these days. As I reluctantly put it down to get ready for the day, I realized nothing had changed. Like them, I've been called by a prophet to preach the gospel to all nations; the temple covenants they sacrificed so much for were likewise central to my life; and my foremost priority was to go about the same work- building the kingdom of God. President Uchtdorf gave an interesting talk years ago based on the question, Are we sleeping through the Restoration? The Restoration of God's truth and Gospel has by no means been completed, and ours is the privilege to continue in the work. Future great and marvelous revelations pertaining to the kingdom of God are promised. Our faith is the fuel to this cause, and therefore by no means will it be hindered as we demonstrate our willingness to sacrifice. As stewards of this generation, ours is the privilege to dedicate our lives to Christ. Just as He is acquainted with every one of our pains, so He receives the same succor we give to our fellow men, literally fulfilling His promise, "Even as thou hast done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, thou hast done it unto me." In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.