"Being together is like catching a sunbeam; each new memory we make reflects light hinting there is more to see and know."

November 30, 2016

A Missionary Thanksgiving

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration and it was also our despedida or farewell as we finish our mission here in Lima, Peru. There were about 40 people to share in the Thanksgiving feast, all missionaries from the temple, MTC and office. Joe and I were asked to say a few things, what we learned about our spouse and advice for the other missionaries. I spoke of how Joe is always so quick to help me with whatever I need, a carrot or butter from the store, something I forgot at the office, or to take something to one of the other missionary houses. He would jump right up every time and offer to go … right now. Thank goodness for his bike!!  The advice I gave was to go beyond their corner of the office and get to know the wonderful people we work with there. We had the opportunity to work with all the employees in Finance and love them as our family. We will miss them so much knowing we probably won’t see them again.

Happy Thanksgiving

Even though our schedule is really full the next few weeks, Joe and I have taken the Church challenge to do something of service every day. It just wouldn't seem right not to continue to serve others around us every day. There is a schedule of all different kinds of service in the days until Christmas and tons of ideas on the Church website, so I’m already filling my calendar with continued service opportunities. I’m confident it will bring many rewarding experiences I would not normally do to celebrate the holidays and continue in the missionary spirit.

November 21, 2016

Our Mission Capstone

What a fabulous ending to our mission! We had our annual Assistant Area Auditor meeting here at the office the last two days and everything went nearly perfect. All 35 brothers arrived safely from all parts of Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela and Bolivia, including Rahn Price from Salt Lake. The hotel was very nice and much less expensive than last year. The transportation was conducted without a flaw from the airport to hotel at all different arrival times, hotel to area office and back to hotel in a very nice tour bus after the meetings, and back to the airport at all different times using 8 or 10 passenger vans. The food was great although they were a little short for lunch the first day. Even the break had mini sandwiches, cookies, strawberry tarts and mini brownies. Sure better than little cookie packages and fruit we had last year.

The meetings were filled with instruction, participation and the spirit, closing with testimony and tears as Joe and Diane said goodbye to our dear friends. In Diane's testimony, she had put on the big screen pictures of Machu Picchu and the climb up Huayna Picchu with our family picture at the top. She drew the correlation of how difficult life is and even painful at times, but we must work and labor and endure to the end so we can enjoy with our family eternal blessings that have been promised. We felt like taking pictures was like a wedding with so many!!

Joe felt very tender as he had worked so closely with these dear brethren for our entire mission. He closed the meeting by continuing Diane's theme of perspective showing slides that began with a close up of a rooster's crown with each slide zooming out to witness a larger picture of the first and so on until the last slide was a tiny dot of the earth.  The message was that God sees from a distance and we don't know what lies around the next corner but He does and will always be there for us.  Joe then closed with his testimony of love and fondness for all those we have worked with and that they will forever have a place in our hearts.  

November 13, 2016

A Broader Perspective

After a great tour of the Sacred Valley and Cusco, we spent the day in Machu Picchu. Words cannot express the majesty and beauty of this forgotten city, but I found a poem that does a good job.

At those ethereal heights where only eagles dare, 
And where the condor glides to gently perch; 
Above the Urubamba Valley of Peru, stretches
The mountain peaks of Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu, 
Where the sky above is a clear cerulean blue! 
And on a cloud-draped ridge connecting both these Andean peaks, 
Lies the magnificent site of Machu Picchu! 
A city hewed and carved out of rocks and stones, 
Which in proud defiance to marauding time, 
Stands there for nearly six hundred years, -
A majestic symbol of Inca pride! 

We also climbed to the top of the mountain peak, Huaynapicchu. It was a very difficult climb, and painful at times with Joe's bad knees, but we continued to the top and enjoyed that special time with the children and the splendid views of the whole river valley overlooking Machu Picchu. It sure was worth it!

November 9, 2016

Machu Picchu with our Children

An amazing week shared with four of our children and their spouses, David and Lizz, Brian and Chelsea, Brian and Stacie and Mark and Kaylinn. The following pictures are just great memories of all the archeological sites and cultural experiences we had as we enjoyed Cusco, the Sacred Valley and the ruins of Machu Picchu.

Actual pictures of our Machu Picchu visit and the climb up Huayna Picchu will be coming next. Amazing trip! There are only four weeks left for us here in Peru. We have loved our mission, the country and the culture and have been richly blessed to have served here.

September 4, 2016

Week 78 ~ Another Earthquake in Southern Peru

We stayed in the little town of Chivay in southern Peru about a month ago. It is very close to the Colca Canyon where we went to see the giant condors. We made a stop in this little town, spent some time in the church here and the town square. These pictures were taken of the streets as we drove through town and now share them in contrast to what they look like after the earthquake.

The earthquake hit Chivay Monday, August 15, at 3:00am measuring 5.5. Imagine waking up to your house crumbling around you. The little church just crumbled as did the village walls. They sure don't make them like the Inka did so many years ago. The rubble in the bottom left picture used to be three houses.

The Church had truck loads of supplies in the area within days and the humanitarian missionaries from our office went down to help distribute everything, Rob and Mary Merrill. The boxes were filled with food and personal care supplies for up to a week. Also boxes with little propane stoves and other cooking supplies and then lots of mattresses. Each box weighed up to 60 pounds. The woman in the middle left picture was carrying two boxes on her back!!

We are so privileged in the United States and have so many conveniences taken for granted. We enjoy Peru, the culture, and especially the people, but miss so many of the everyday conveniences, even having a car . . . . . . or two.  God loves all his children and hears their prayers.

Peace doesnt mean troubles are absent;
Peace means God is present.

August 10, 2016

Week 76 ~ Humanitarian Service in Peru

Look carefully at this road to the highlands of northern Peru to some of the back country villages. Yeah, this is where our humanitarian missionaries go for the weekend! We love to hear their stories over lunch after they return. These villages are self-sustaining and independent from rest of the world. They welcome help and supplies when they come from afar. These road photos are on the “highway” Huarmey, Ancash to check out the condition of the school desks and equipment in four small communities there to verify the need.


The computers were donated by the church to help people become more prepared for a college education. This picture is in a community facility operated by the Lima Metropolitan government that provides skills training in a very poor neighborhood of Lima known as San Gabriel Alto.  This facility is a "Productive Workshop" that is designed to help people learn productive skills to become more economically independent.

The workshop is located in the center of this neighborhood and courses are taught in sewing, cooking, cosmetology, and computers.  We learned of numerous success stories of individuals who used the basic skills they learned here in order to improve their economic prospects and gain the abilities necessary to be able to be employed or to actually begin their own businesses. Brother and Sister Prince are also very involved here with classes twice a week in ESL (English as a Second Language) as a 6-month pilot program to prepare members for Pathway.

Peru has implemented a program called PLAN SELVA (selva means jungle) to help with the school drop-out rate in the little villages along the Amazon. The Church helps in the construction of modules that are made of structural steel and wood and can be transferred to areas in the jungle. Attention is given to needs of each area replacing an entire school or improve only part of it, such as classrooms, restrooms, a multipurpose room, media room, covered patio with updated furniture and equipment.. The floors are high to protect them from heavy rains and flooding and the buildings have improved ventilation and lighting

The children were delighted and the whole town came out for the celebration with dancing, singing and lots of Peruvian food. Mary said she was very skeptical of what she was eating but had to be polite as the guests of honor in their little village. In addition to the new desks, supplies were donated to equip a medical health post in several of the schools of which there was only a Band-aid box available before.

The village parents covered these desks to protect them from further damage and make the surfaces more useable. The children wear hats, sweaters, coats, and scarves inside the classroom.  It gets (stays?) cold here much of the year and there did not appear to be any form of heating in the classrooms.  Children are clean and attractive and were very curious to see some visitors from North America.  A few classrooms had children who extended a greeting to us in English.  :-)

In the Amazon region of Peru, a large workshop was held where many medical people attended from all through the region with the idea they will return to their villages and pass on the knowledge. Instruction was given for new baby resuscitation since it is a major problem for death of newborns. At one of the regional hospitals along the Amazon, donated ultra sound equipment was celebrated in the care of maternity and intestinal care. Pictured below is the first ultrasound machine:  The Health Post in Huacaybamba with the Ultra Sound machine which was donated to them. They have been able to use it to detect problems in unborn babies early enough for them to be sent to the city to be treated. In the past, they couldn't tell if there there problems until birth and then it was too late many times to get the needed help since the Hospital is over 6 hours away on very bumpy roads. So much we take for grated in the U.S.

There was a training workshop held for repair and rehabilitation of wheelchairs where many new wheels and fabric for seats and backs were donated. Everyone who attended the workshop left with a kit with the proper tools needed for the wheelchair repairs. Men came from all over Peru to be trained so they could be of service in their respective areas. There are 67,000 chairs donated annual by the church, and although we don't distribute the wheelchairs, the Church trains and donates parts. The wheelchairs help in the self-reliance area to help in obtaining employment or attend school. Handicap people came with their old wheelchairs to be repaired and left with them like new again.

Other dimensions of the humanitarian effort here in Peru are to help with clean water wells. When the water is found, the church donates the pump and pipes to bring the water to the surface in a central location for the residents of the little villiages.

In the way of vision care, the church provides cataract surgery training and has donated 4000 reading glasses for school children in addition to vision screening.

There is training for more efficient food production by the stakes in planting gardens and caring of small animals. They learn about container gardening, pesticides and fertilizers with donated seeds and wire screening from the U.S. In northern Peru Piura, the Church carried out a mosquito abatement program.

If you are interested in donating to help with projects such as these, simply make the contribution under "Humanitarian" on the church donation slip or make an online donation at LDS Charities. 

July 20, 2016

Week 74 ~ Flying High

Flying high with the Assistant Area Auditors in Arequipa and enjoying their spirit and company for the day.  Arequipa is surrounded by volcanoes. Misti is the prominent volcano overlooking the city at 19,000 feet, and in the photo on the left is one which is still smoking. Pretty hot! We planned an extra day to travel to Colca Canyon to see the condors fly which was a three hour trip outside Arequipa, climbing to an elevation of 16,000 feet. We felt light headed and a little sick, indeed. We also saw herds of llamas, Guanacos, and Vicunas at the high elevation.

Flying high as we enjoyed free time at the Colca Lodge for just one night. Such a shame we couldn't stay longer because it was so pleasant. The Lodge included a wonderful restaurant, large gardens, horseback riding, and a little farm with alpacas, llamas, pigs and sheep. It was located right on the  Colca River and the front desk had fishing poles to use, so that's exactly what Joe did. The fish were small and biting, but the hook was too big. There were four large hot thermal pools. Right after dinner, we hopped into one and didn't get out for an hour. It was so relaxing. AND we had a full moon which we could actually see. The weather was very cool but the climate is very dry this time of year. There was no TV or internet but, actually, after a full day we didn't even mind.

Colca Canyon
And then, flying high with the finale of the trip. The Canyon itself was amazing and we weren't disappointed in the views of the valley and then to see the condors in flight. We walked for nearly a kilometer along the canyon ridge which was really peaceful and we could see the condors in the distance. Then it was quite a long, steep climb up to the viewpoint. I’m glad we did the walk because by the time we hiked up to the look-out point, there were so many people scurrying around to get the best view and taking pictures. We had a much better experience than just stopping at a crowded look-out point. 

The condors don’t fly per se and they don't often flap their wings. They mostly use the thermals and wind to get the lift on their giant wings. The Andean condors are massive birds, among the largest in the world that can fly. They weigh up to 33 pounds and have an enormous wing span of 10 feet to help keep them aloft. These birds can live up to 100 years but they only mate and lay one egg every 2-3 years. The Condors put on quite a show for us, the young brown ones learning to fly and staying close to the nest, and the larger black and white adult condors flying high and then up close to our ledge. 

July 11, 2016

Week 72 ~ Back in Trujillo, Peru

We traveled to Trujillo which is in the north of Peru to have a meeting with the AAA's there. It is always nice to get out of Lima where the air is better and it is more green. We attended the temple. It is so beautiful and so much bigger than the temple in Lima. A fun extra is that the temple President and Sister Cosas were the area auditors before us so we had a chance to visit.

Urquiaga House
This house was rebuilt in the mid-nineteenth century and used as a home for Simon Bolivar, the Peru leader for independence. 

July Fourth is always a big event for us now that we celebrate Joe’s birthday along with Independence Day. Well, here in Peru, Independence Day will be the end of the month but the Americans still did a little celebration with Family Home Evening.  All the finance employees in the office had a surprise for Joe with a big chocolate cake. We were going to go to the store together to get a cake to share with all our co-workers, but then I heard the secret. When Joe was ready to go to the store, I just admitted I didn’t want to walk all the way to the bakery and it was too late, etc. He was disappointed because that had been our plan and then I just copped out. He was so surprised when he walked into the room full of his friends and I didn’t have anything to do with it.

L to R: Oswaldo Mendoza, Jose Montalvan, Diane and Joe, Carlos Solis and Enrique Montoya

This was our second trip to Trujillo to meet with the AAA's in the Peru North area, Trujillo, Piura, and Chiclayo.  Our meeting last year was just two weeks following the dedication of the Trujillo temple.  We were so blessed to be able to attend the temple again, one of the most beautiful temples we have ever seen. Our meeting with these dear brethren was a special treat for us.  We felt much more comfortable, especially in our ability to communicate with them.  Diane's experience and testimony she shared invited the spirit into our meeting.  It was great how we were able to talk and counsel together and to understand the audit principles more clearly as they relate to the Lord's sacred funds.  It was a very productive meeting.  We will see these men again when we meet in Lima for our annual meeting.  What a special experience it was to spend our time together.  We are so blessed.

July 3, 2016

Week 71 ~ Lima Holiday "Feriado" Bikeride

`Lima Bike Ride
Wednesday was a national holiday in Peru honoring the martyrdom of Apostles St Peter and St Paul in Rome. We planned a day bike ride downtown with our missionary friends Merrill and Prince and the Merrills had a friend visiting from home, Scott. When we woke up it was so misty and wet outside, would have never thought to go on a bike ride, but we had already made the reservation and paid for the bikes so just had to bear it. Then when we all met up at the bike shop, it was such a perfect day for a bike ride, cool and a little cloudy, and since it was a holiday, there was very little traffic.

We rode through town and then along LarcoMar and south along the coast to Barranco. We stopped along the way to walk through the Dedalo Market. Every room showcases an artist and their craft, gorgeous ceramics with a bit of silver, wood pieces, recycled material lamps, purses and clocks, all displayed in a beautiful old house. Fun eclectic quality art and definitely not Inka Market stuff. From there we rode the streets of Barranco to the Bridge of Sighs and then stopped for lunch at the Burrito Bar. We had the most wonderful fish tacos before heading back to the bike rental shop. It was a perfect day with perfect weather. We loved seeing the ocean and hearing the waves. The surfers were out in big numbers, too. After we returned the bikes right there at Inka Market, we spent another hour or so just looking and shopping because it’s always fun.

We had two new mission presidents arrive in Lima during the early hours of the morning, President and Sister Godfrey from Ogden will be serving in the Lima West Mission and President and Sister Stauffer from Conneticut will be serving in the Lima North Mission. Joe and I are amazed as THEY ARE SO YOUNG! They each brought three of their children who will be attending the English high school. Wow, such dedication and faith!

June 28, 2016

Week 70 ~ We Caught It

Catching fish in Peru?
Last week Joe went with Jerry Prince and Rob Merrill fly fishing. Yes, Rob was going to go my himself up in the Andes and asked if they wanted to go with him.  They were delighted to accept the invitation.  They left at 6:30 am, the three Elders with the driver, Jerico.  It was a very long hard drive up the carratera central towards Huancayo and then splitting to La Oroya.  We had already passed the summit at Ticlio, 4840 meters or a little under 16,000 ft.  The picture is of them at the sign identifying the summit.  At that altitude, Joe was light headed and Jerry had a headache, just aren’t used to that altitude. They drove along the river and down to about 13,000 feet and drove a little way off the main highway to a beautiful area where they tried their luck without luck at fishing.  However, they did go fly fishing in Peru and for the headaches, nauseous stomach, very windy and twisting road and curves, passing truck after truck after truck on a very treacherous mountain road, Joe says it was worth it. 

               Catching the Spirit in Colombia
Saturday, we met with six brothers from different areas of Colombia and I would say of all the meetings, it was the most successful for several reasons. All the men stayed at the InterContinental Hotel along with us which was really nice. We had a meeting room with no added expense and we were served refreshments. Then for lunch, we merely went downstairs to the poolside buffet. It was a fabulous lunch, and then back upstairs for the remainder of the meeting.

L to R: Eduardo Pastrana, Gabriel Aloya, Diane and Joe, Wilington Franco, Alvaro Rodriguez, Miguel Rincon and Carlos Puruncajas

I wish I had the right words to describe this particular meeting.  I don’t know exactly what it was but I believe it was the inspired counsel from Elder Montoya to make our meetings more of a council meeting.  This meeting truly was fruitful and productive.  Different brethren had prepared various topics but mostly introducing and leading a discussion.  Everyone was engaged, had questions, and contributed valuable information and experiences.  I was truly amazed.  We, Diane and I, began the meeting with Diane sharing her experience about family history and her sweet testimony.  Again, I was so proud of her.  She is getting better and more and more confident and less afraid to make a mistake.  There is definitely a gentler spirit when she is present.  The morning sped by.  We were catered to which was so nice and then at noon we went to lunch.  I stayed behind to spend a little time with Eduardo Pastrana.  I had been sensing for some time that he was disillusioned or the very least not engaged.  I had a feeling that he thought I was disappointed in him.  As I spoke with him, the Spirit of love and peace gently settled over us and he opened up and shared his deepest concerns.  I felt the love of Heavenly Father for this dear man.  Just listening to him and understanding his personality was a great blessing.  The lesson I learned was to not jump to judgement.  We were ready to release Eduardo but I had told Elder Montoya when he asked me that I thought I needed to speak with him one on one.  I did so at lunch and then following the meeting also.  I believe he truly wants to serve and actually does a very good job.  I felt so much love for him.  He is a doctor and I had mentioned Diane’s challenge with her eyes and cough.  He gave it some thought and before we left had given me a prescription for her and even emailed me the name of an LDS woman dermatologist.

I truly felt the Lord’s hand in this meeting.  One of the things that I loved is that I took some time and actually taught from the scriptures, shared some stories, asked some questions.  Teaching, something I truly have been missing but just didn’t realize how much.  I know there was a spirit of edification when even my sweetheart made a comment at the end of my little presentation.  She had understood nearly every word and, even though, she was unable to express herself in Spanish, her comments in English and my translation to Spanish were guided by the Spirit.  

We now have three Area Auditor Assistants, in addition to the 35 Assistant Area Auditors. They help us with training and country meetings. One helps in Bolivia and Peru South, another for Peru Central and North, and then one for Ecuador and Colombia. These brothers help Joe with the endless email demands to answer questions, train and conduct these country meetings. By the time we leave our mission, we will have finally figured out how to run this program efficiently.