It’s the beginning of SPRING here. The winter was very mild and, actually, we’re not looking forward to the hot, dry, dusty days ahead, especially as we enter the holiday season. We will enjoy a few more months of springlike weather. We will sure miss the Midwest fall colors. We have also heard this is an El Niño year and we will have a lot of rain here in Lima during December. Well, considering we never get rain here, that could be a problem for water control. In the meantime, Happy Spring J
The weeks go by very quickly with our time in the office. We are right in the middle of the second annual church audit. Actually, the first one due in April covers June to December and the one we are completing right now is January through June. Joe handles all the email questions and problems from the 35 auditors in five countries. I manage the credit card and travel expense reimbursements and approvals. We work with a great office team and love to interact and socialize with the eight senior missionary couples in the office as well. J
We enjoyed dinner with President and Sister Boswell Saturday with all the senior missionaries. While there 16 of us were watching the BYU/Nebraska football game, huddled around a mini IPad. The last few minutes of the game were exciting but when they did the Hail Mary pass into the end zone and it was caught, we about raised the roof on the house with all the yelling. Our missionary couple from Australia just looked at us funny wondering what all the excitement was about. It was fun to see the replays on a bigger TV later that night. J
President Boswell shared some interesting statistics and goals for our mission and for all of Lima. We have five missions in Lima for 12 million people. Lastly, he shared a miracle that shows the tender mercies of the Lord. An Elder had shared his testimony and pass along card with a woman, directing her to the missionaries in her area. She received the lessons and accepted baptism. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the President, the Elder was transferred to that area and was able to baptize the new member. Sweet. J
We are sharing some scenes we have become accustomed to seeing, gates for every neighborhood, houses behind walls, security guards and bars on the windows of stores and houses. We thought it would be important to share a little history about Peru to understand how this came to be and the struggles the people have had while the Church was growing so rapidly in this area.
In 1985, the per capita annual income of Peruvians fell to $720 (below the level of 1960) and Peru's Gross Domestic Product dropped 20%. The national reserves were a negative $900 million.
The economic turbulence of the time partly contributed to the rise of the violent rebel movement Shining Path. The García administration unsuccessfully sought a military solution to the growing terrorism, committing human rights violations which are still under investigation.
Then in 1990, voters chose a relatively unknown mathematician-turned-politician, Alberto Fujimori, as president. Fujimori implemented drastic measures that caused inflation to drop from 7,650% in 1990 to 139% in 1991. As other dictators did, Fujimori dissolved Congress April 5, 1992, in order to have total control of the government of Peru. He then eliminated the constitution; called new congressional elections; and implemented substantial economic reform, including privatization of numerous state-owned companies, creation of an investment-friendly climate, and sound management of the economy.
Fujimori's administration was frustrated by several insurgent groups like Shining Path which carried on a terrorist campaign in the countryside throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
We heard first-hand experiences from our dear friend Monte Moser who visited us here in Lima from Brentwood. He served his mission in the outskirts of Lima during the 1980's. At one point during the rise of the Shining Path, it was announced that on a particular day, if anyone was found out of their homes after 7:00pm, they would be shot. Shining Path was declaring their power and supremecy when, to their delight, no one left their homes in fear of the terrorists. Monte said the missionaries were finally taken out of the surrounding areas except for the native missionaries. BUT it didn't matter . . . Monte heard a few months later that his native companion had been shot and killed in his old area.
During that time, the people from the countryside moved to Lima to be safe. One taxi driver we had told us all about the migration because his family were among those that came to Lima. They came in droves, with no money and no jobs. As we drove to the airport, he pointed to the hundreds of houses on the hills, many different colors and with no roads, poor water and little sanitation, where the people settled. The population of the city grew ten times its size in one year. You can imagine the problems that created. Fujimori cracked down on the insurgents and was successful in largely supressing them by the late 1990s, but the fight had many atrocities committed by both the Peruvian security forces and the insurgents. The stories we hear today are from people who lived through those terrible times, people in our ward, whose family members were shot in the street, who were eye witnesses to mass murders.
During the difficult years of the 1980’s, the people of Perú changed the face of the city with block walls and barbed wire fences around their homes. The homes are all enclosed within walls with security gates for every neighborhood and many electric wires on the rooftops. Even today, if your home is not protected, it is common for “squatters” to make use of your property. The land owners have to be on constant guard to keep them out. That’s why the temples and our office are under the same protection with gates, fences and guards . . . to keep the squatters out.
While Elder Bednar was visiting last week, we had such an incident across the street where a number of “squatters” had been living on a vacant lot behind a fence. It took quite an army to get them moved out.
The end to the story: In 2000, Fujimori fled to Japan to escape conviction of his war crimes against human rights and corruption charges by the new Peruvian authorities. BUT, he did rid the country of the Shining Path terrorists. His main man and chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, fled Peru shortly afterwards and he was arrested in Caracas, Venezuela in June 2001, the time David was serving his mission in Venezuela. He is currently imprisoned here in Lima.