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

April 26, 2015

Week 10 ~ “Live simply, love generously, care deeply, speak kindly, leave the rest to God.”

Dear Friends and Family,
The past two weeks have been like a jet passing overhead, you see it for a few moments, turn your head and look back again and it's gone.  We are realizing we probably won't be able to write in this blog every week, thus week 10 is a combined weeks 9 and 10.  

We were busy preparing for our first trip outside of Peru, a country wide training meeting with our Bolivian assistant area auditors or AAAs.   The meeting was planned and carried out by this group of wonderful men from La Paz, Cochabamba, and Santa Cruz.  

We met in Santa Cruz where we gathered the night before with some of the men and then met for breakfast and a day long meeting on Saturday.  The picture you see is of four of our AAAs Diane and me, left to right:  Jose Padilla, Saul Yerbales, Ernesto Peralta, Diane, me, Rodrigo Diaz.  Miguel Pinedo was missing because of sickness.  Brother Peralta (from Santa Cruz) was huge in planning and making sure everything was just right.  

He asked that Diane and I take some time on the agenda to introduce ourselves.  I did the talking in Spanish and Diane just waited patiently.  She had told me that she felt too self conscious to say anything in Spanish.  
When I was done and had shared my testimony, out of courtesy to Diane, I asked if she wanted to say anything.  I was stunned when she said she did and then stood up and began to speak ...... IN SPANISH! She spoke for about 4 minutes, sharing an experience she had with a senior sister missionary who works in the area office.  Diane asked her one day if she was going to "work" and the sister said "oh no, I don't go to work, I go to the office to serve."  She then spoke of the joy of service and then bore her testimony.  All the while I was sitting there with my mouth agape and tears rolling down my cheeks.  I had no idea she has spent the past two weeks every day and before going to bed memorizing her testimony so she could share it.  Even though it was a bit rough in some places, the spirit of what she was saying was conveyed clearly and powerfully.  It set the tone for the entire meeting and the men referred to it from time to time. 

The meeting was very productive and the men were very prepared as we spent the day training and then I closed teaching the principles of why we do what we do. After being with these dear brethren for two days, we felt they were much more than just 5 of 35 AAAs in five countries.  We are connected to them and them to us.  We look forward to the other five upcoming country meetings in Ecuador, Columbia and Peru (3).  

We spent an extra two days in Santa Cruz celebrating Diane's birthday on April 19th and our anniversary on April 20th.  We stayed in a delightful hotel in downtown Santa Cruz, "The Senseses".  It was right next to a beautiful family park with many trees and benches.  The atmosphere was one of family friends gathering on a beautiful evening to sing and stroll and play .... and attend mass at the "Basilca de San Lorenzo" which was built in 1770 and sits right at the head of the park.  We loved the evening and the mingling even though it was obvious we were gringos and stuck out like a sore thumb.  Yet all were pleasant and kind.  The Group of men in the picture above did a little sing and dance and suddenly noticed Diane taking their picture.  They then tried and tried to get her to come down from the crowd to dance with them.  Diane was so embarrassed and politely declined to their obvious disappointment.


We spent our anniversary taking a taxi out to a very delightful nature preserve/resort.  Diane discovered it and we decided to give it a try.  The taxi ride took about 45 minutes and the closer we got to our destiny the less confidence we were that we were in the right place.  The road went from four lane asphalt to two lane, to dirt road and then to just ruts in the road.  By the time we pulled into Quembe, we were a little skeptical of what we had read in the advertisement.  But as soon as we walked through the gate another special and delightful world opened up to us.  We took a guided tour of the preserve that contained a butterfly preserve and an aviary that was absolutely huge and full of all kinds of exotic birds as well as parrots, Maccaws, and Tucans.  We loved the lush rain forest fauna.  The weather was perfect as was the day.


One of highlights of the day at Quembe were the 18 swimming pools.  They were built to look natural.  There were four huge pools above the others.  These four were featured by a volcano like structure that spewed water and waterfalls cascading down into the four upper pools. 14 other pools were built below.  These flowed into each other with waterfall slides that looked natural but were for anyone daring enough to take a trip down.,.... which these two 60+ kids did.  Fortunately no bruises or broken bones, just childlike glee. You may notice there were no other people there tht day and we made sure we swam, sat, slid into, or dipped our feet into all 18 pools. It was a resort all to ourselves.

Diane writes: When I returned to the office, I had two birthday boxes waiting for me with numerous birthday cards and wishes. Thank you all very much!! Birthdays are fun and it was especially unique because one of my good missionary friends in the office also shares her birthday on April 19, so we even had a little office rah rah with a wonderful chocolate cake. They have amazing desserts and ice cream here, that’s for sure. Lydia Acosta gave me a darling little gift bag with the best chocolate bar and a bottle of nail polish, so I ate the chocolate while I gave myself a pedicure for the Santa Cruz trip and the polish looks great.

April 14, 2015

Week 8 ~ "Our daily discipleship will determine our eternal destiny"

Sometimes our days get off track centered on personal worries or cares or self. Being on a mission really helps us focus every day on our discipleship to Jesus Christ, what we are doing and how we can better serve him. This is such a great experience to be in Peru and share our testimony often, see the Gospel in action, and work with the Saints here. 

We spent a good part of the week planning and organizing our training sessions with the Assistant Area Auditors. We will be meeting with our assistant auditors in Ecuador in May in conjunction with the open house of the new temple in Trujillo. What a blessing that will be to the Saints there! We will be meeting in Santa Cruz, Bolivia next weekend and will stay an extra two days to celebrate our wedding anniversary and my birthday. There will be a report on that visit next time. We are planning a meeting in Colombia to include the Venezuelan Brothers since we are not allowed in that country as US citizens. We will have three more individual training meetings here in Lima with the different areas of Peru. Actually, we have 15 assistant auditors just in Peru. We look forward to meeting personally the men we communicate with by email and phone and who serve so faithfully in their callings, helping and training some 200+ stake leaders in their districts regarding the collection and distribution of sacred funds.

Friday we went to dinner at Chili’s with the Acosta’s at Jocky Plaza. It was a little drive but the Acosta’s are great to be with. They are so unassuming in their manner and service and we enjoyed talking about his travels and experiences as an assistant to the Ambassadors in South America and Africa, including all the title, pomp and ceremony of that calling, the uniform, the red carpet, the parties and diplomatic performance. He was also a mission president in Mexico. Our little Manny Acosta, a three-starred general serving for 30 years in foreign affairs. Now he serves as an aide to the Area President, and his wife Lydia is mother to us all. Such firm dedication, faith and testimony! They live right above us and we love them. After dinner we went grocery shopping and didn’t get home until almost 10:30!

Joe and I had plans to go to the Larco Museum downtown Lima Saturday. We have heard how wonderful it is and full of artifacts from the past civilizations in the area. But, as we were ready to go, we get a call inviting us to the beach. Now, how can you turn down an invitation to the beach!! So we quickly packed a picnic lunch and put on our sandals and sunglasses to meet up with the Gonzalez’s who have a van. It was loaded with our friends from the mission, the Kendall’s, Cannon’s and Bart’s along with the MTC President, Jose and Sister Monica Gonzalez from Colombia. We drove about 1.5 hours south of Lima to the most beautiful beach in all of Peru, Playa de Santa Maria! We truly felt like we were back in California, beautiful warm water, sand and resort neighborhoods. It started out foggy but soon gave way to a sunny day with a warm breeze. I even got a little teary-eyed when I sank my feet into that cool sand and heard the surf and seagulls. Even here so far from home, I felt a piece of home! We spent most of the day playing in the surf up to our thighs, walking along the beach, visiting and resting. Just wish we had a frizbee! Got home about 4:30 tired but rejuvenated, bringing plenty of sand home with us in our shoes, pants and hair!

Joe's Journal Entry
One day this week at the office I w­­as putting my food in the fridge in the cafeteria when I began talking to Isabela Carrera, one of the cleaning ladies.  She told me about her life and I was touched and amazed.  I learned that she lived in a little pueblo about two hours from the office.  She gets up at in time to catch a bus at 4:30 am every morning and to work by 6:30.  She then works until 4:30 pm and takes a bus home again, day after day.  She told me about her conversion and how her Pappi had taught her many things about religion from the time she was a little girl.  He had been raised by a step father who taught him about the earth and the seasons and spiritual things.  Two things her father taught his children really stayed with her.  One was tithing, that if you made10 soles you paid 1 to the Lord.  He said if she ever found a church that taught the law of tithing it a true church.  The second thing she remembered was that the name of the true church would be named after Jesus Christ.   She remembered her father’s teachings and for the next number of years (she is now 66 yrs. old) she grew up and lived her life watched and observed.  Then one day in 1986 she met the missionaries and began taking the lessons.  When the Elders taught her the principle of tithing she began to cry and knew she had found the true Church and it was named after Jesus Christ like her father told her.  Isabella was baptized and later her husband and all of her children.  She now has a total of 10 children, 9 daughters and 1 son.  One of her daughters passed away.

She told me that when it was time for her and her husband to be sealed, they were in their home asleep the night before they were to get on a bus for the temple.  She began dreaming and had a vivid dream about the temple and specifics of the endowment even though she had never heard anything of the temple ordinances.  Her dream was very detailed and as it continued she was beckoned by a man dressed in white telling her to wake up.  She suddenly awoke and realized she had overslept and had just enough time to catch the bus with her husband for the temple.  They got there in time for the session and when she went in, she again cried and remembered her dream with a detailed account of the endowment which was exactly the same she had dreamed the night before.  Amazing story.

One more story about Isabella.  She told me when she was a little girl her mother got very sick, so much so that she was hospitalized and then suddenly slipped into a coma.  She was “gone” for nearly 7 days.  On the 7th day her Pappi told his children that “Mommy” had died.  Suddenly Mommy awoke and she saw her children crying and asked what was wrong and if Daddy had spanked them.  They told their mommy they were crying because Daddy had told them she had died.  She then told them where she had been.  She said, “I left my body and went toward a light and then there was a beautiful place with flowers and trees and I was on a path that was like gold.  There were many people on the path with me and they kept leaving the path.  Some went to the left and some went to the right.  I didn’t know which side to go to, left or right, so I stayed on the path until I found myself alone.  I kept walking and suddenly I saw a man dressed in white and shining brightly. I walked up to him.  He smiled, and I felt great great peace and love.  He told me that I wasn’t suppose to be there yet and I needed to go back along the path and to the place where my children and husband were.  He said your children are crying for you and need you.  I turned around and began walking and then suddenly I awoke and saw my children crying.”  Isabella said that she always remembered her mother’s story and years later when she joined the Church she understood what her mother had seen in the spirit world.

I was so touched listening to this good and humble woman who works so hard for so little but knows who she is and her purpose in life.  I felt I was standing on sacred ground with this sweet humble elderly woman with bad knees and arthritic fingers.  She radiated light and love and understanding.  I can learn much if I will listen and feel God’s love flowing through these dear, humble people.  

April 5, 2015

WEEK 7 ~ We're Not Hors'n Around

It’s a beautiful day in Lima, Easter Sunday, General Conference weekend, the traffic quiet and weather cool. The church office building has been closed Thursday and Friday because of the Semana Santa, or Holy Weekend. Here in Peru, the people celebrate the Friday before Easter as the most holy day of the year because of the crucifixion of Jesus. We didn’t go to the celebrations downtown but have heard it is pretty crazy similar to Mardi Gras with parade, food, face painting, music, balloons and the Catholic Mass with all the tradition and ceremony depicting the death of Jesus.

So, in contrast, we have been enjoying the quiet of home and conference addresses. Today we walked to the town cemetery up on the hill, quite a walk actually. I think it is the only extended lawn area in the city except for the church office and temple. We were there right when the guard opened the gate to let us in and it was so beautiful and peaceful. When Pres. Uchdorf spoke of opening the gate, I thought of how the guard opened the gate for us so we could enter the cemetery. Joe and I are so grateful for the resurrection and as we looked out over the expanse of markers and flowers, we thought how great will be the day when the graves of the righteous will be opened and the people will walk again. Easter Sunday there were fields of fresh flowers!

Thursday,  I walked to the grocery store, about two miles, bought groceries, loaded them into my little hand cart and walked home. It got pretty hot so I’m not sure I’ll do that again, maybe if I don’t buy so much food! The grocery store was crazy crowded on Thursday, people preparing for their Easter feast on Friday. We also did some heavy cleaning and laundry. Also on Thursday, Joe went to the car museum which he found pretty impressive with about 100 cars on display.

 We had quite a large earthquake last Tuesday which lasted 10-12 seconds. The building was evacuated for 15 minutes to make sure it was safe. It measured 5.9. We were glad we were in such a safe building since the Church builds to US building codes and beyond. The same morning I was having quite an experience at home. I was going to have a bowl of oatmeal but there were weevils in the box , then the milk was sour when I poured it on my cereal, and when I cut the bread to make a sandwich (which was in a plastic bag on the counter) the ants came crawling out of the bread.

There is a senior missionary here who is an expert in FamilySearch. I took advantage of my free time on Friday to spend a few hours with her learning some of the wonderful technology tools available online and how to get around the FamilySearch program, how to attach families together and attach source materials and documents. Sadly, I haven’t been able to scrapbook so I hope doing family research on the computer will give me a new challenge. I’m pretty excited about it even though I don’t have a lot of time to spend at it.

Every day I work at the office answering emails, approving expenses, and helping Joe in handling some of the problem cases. I try to practice the piano an hour a day at the office and, of course, drill and work with Spanish a few hours a day, mostly at my desk. I’ve been working on saying my prayers every day in Spanish. I’m slow but I can say a pretty complete prayer. This week I’ve increased my vocabulary and can put together simple but complete sentences. I have a long, long way to go but at least I’ve seen some progress in the six weeks I’ve been here. I get frustrated easily when the same word means different things depending how you use it or, you use a particular word here but not in another situation even though the word is the same. Ugh! Joe is also meeting with the MTC tutor once a week wanting to improve the financial vocabulary and general office conversation. He helps me a lot.

Wednesday evening after work, a group of senior missionaries rented a taxi van together. The driver drove us down to Mamacona south of Lima to a hacienda that raises Peruvian horses. We attended a demonstration show of their beauty and unique showmanship. At one point, a Peruvian dancer danced with the horse and it was obvious the horse enjoyed dancing with her, prancing around her as she turned and turned, flipping her skirt. 

These same horses will compete in the National Horse Show next week so it was a real treat to see them perform for us what they will do next week in front of the judges. After the horse show, we were treated to a beautiful candlelight Peruvian dinner out on the veranda, and enjoyed a little more dance entertainment. The weather was delightful, no noise and we loved the company.