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.