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

December 27, 2015

Week 44 ~ A Missionary Christmas

Christmas in Peru. Wow. What a busy and entertaining few weeks we have had! I know it’s busy at home with last minute preparations, buying gifts, party gatherings, music and family. Here it was busy in such a different way and we really felt the spirit of Christmas.

Wednesday we joined six other missionary couples to attend a Christmas music celebration at the National Theater. We went to dinner first at Scarlatti’s next to the La Rambla Mall. The food was excellent! Then we attended the music performance that included a full orchestra, about 150 members in the choir and then the Peruvian Cultural Dancers. What a show and performance! The music was so magnificent and spirited and the dancers and costumes were fabulous! And to think we got in for the price of S/. 30 or $10 USD. Everything was perfect, the company, the food and the entertainment.

                                                                                                     This is an ice cream crepe!

Look at these cute dolls. This is Sister Acosta who lives upstairs. She brought these dolls down to show me what she's been doing the last several months. Yes, she made these dolls by hand without a sewing machine to give to her dear friend Jessica and her daughter who live here in Lima. Everything about them is handmade. Truly remarkable and precious! I can sure appreciate the hours of handwork required for each doll. Wow!

We went caroling all through the neighborhood for about two hours. We had many, many who came to their windows and doorways to listen, to take pictures and videos and give us warm hugs and wishes for a merry Christmas. I must say, our little choir is pretty good with some very strong voices. It was really quite heartwarming, something I don’t think the Peruvians have seen before AND we sang in Spanish so they were quite impressed. We ended at the Bluth’s apartment with volcano cake and ice-cream, cookies and candy. 

December 21, 2015

Week 43 ~ Celebrating Christ's Birth

Our week in the office was a little crazy because of all the reimbursements that needed to be made to all the brethren who attended the annual meeting. It was complicated by the fact that Friday was the cut-off date for the bank card transactions and setting all the accounts to zero which included the eight men from Colombia and Venezuela. Vilma Ramos in our office helped Diane a lot, especially with communication with those having questions and problems. 

We had some incidents in getting all the men back to their homes. One brother got very sick in the Lima airport and had to go to the hospital. He was throwing up and fainted. Another flight was cancelled to Bolivia and the dear brother had to stay an extra day and then take a bus all night to his home because he couldn’t miss another day of work. On the way to our meeting, a brother from Huancayo took a group taxi with his wife. He was afraid of flying and even after our encouragement to take the nice bus Cruz del Sur, he still took the taxi which went off an embankment and rolled three times. No one in the car was hurt badly except for bruising and cuts.

The traditional craft fair at the Cultural Center is a little way past Jockey Plaza and artisans come from all over the country to sell at Christmastime. Some of the missionaries went down Thursday to spend a few hours browsing all the vendors. There were dancers in native costumes and Peruvian music which made the atmosphere festive. We saw so many amazing things and bought a few items, like our Amazon wood bowl, some Christmas tree ornaments, bird whistles, earrings, a roughly carved wood soup ladle, homemade bread (YUM!), and stuffed alpacas with real alpaca hair (for the grandchildren to play with). Each of the missionaries had their own treasures and we enjoyed sharing what we bought.

There is a group of all the American sisters that get together once a month called Lunch Bunch. It is held at various homes of the sisters, not missionaries because our places are too small, but those whose husbands work in the office or Embassy. The homes are always very spacious and beautiful with huge gourmet kitchens and large patios and backyards. Monday I attended the Christmas lunch and the home was huge but decorated for an old fashioned Christmas. It was charming with teddy bears and lots and lots of Disney everywhere with ornaments, pictures and toys. I bet there were seven Christmas trees, all decorated and one with the traditional train track around the tree. Each tree was a world in itself AND the wife is 8 months pregnant and three small children. Okay, okay, she has a nanny and her niece, two housekeepers, one cook and a yard maintenance man to make it all possible. We had a gift exchange and I ended up with a darling ceramic pot hand painted with Peruvian pictures.

Friday morning at 7:00, the finance department gathered for a traditional Peruvian breakfast and gift exchange. Joe and I went down early, yea, 6:15am, to set up table decorations for a surprise. We used the garlands and Christmas balls we had from our meeting and the cafeteria looked very festive. Otherwise, it would have just been “the lunch room.” It was quite unusual to have a typical Peruvian breakfast . . . a pork sandwich! Needless to say, Joe and I were pretty surprised. There were no eggs and bacon, no cinnamon rolls or doughnuts, no fruit, orange juice or hot chocolate. Instead, we had the Peruvian favorite, Sanguche.   Pervians have a sandwich for breakfast, lunch or dinner, in between, before going out or at the end of a long night, actually any time, and always with tastes of Peru. This Sanguche was with roasted chunky pork on a Kaiser roll with some cooked red onion. It was missing the mayonnaise or cheese as the sandwich was a little dry. It was served with Inka Cola or Maracay juice to drink.

At a mall close to us, there was a life-like manger set up with stable and animals and characters . . . except there was no baby Jesus, just the empty cradle. Diane thought maybe someone took the baby. How sad. Then Joe asked a worker at the Dunkin ‘ Donuts and with a little chuckle told the Americans that the baby hadn’t come yet. How unique! We had never heard of that. They put the baby Jesus in the manger Christmas Eve.

December 13, 2015

Week 42 ~ Mission High water Mark

This week has been a high water mark week for us on our mission.  First of all it marks the culmination of all of our efforts from when we began in February to this point.  Everything we have been doing was looking forward to this weekend in our annual training.   It's so hard to believe we have come this far and are at this point.  We spent the week putting the finishing touches on a meeting we knew would be the most important for us in our mission, bringing all the Assistant Area Auditors from four countries into Lima for our annual two day training.

On Thursday, the day before our big training, we participated in an area wide devotional.  The couple missionaries were asked to sing at the devotional.  It was a special time for us.

Afterwards we joined all the office employees for a special lunch with the Area Presidency.  All the employees and missionaries loaded onto very nice buses to ride to a wonderful restaurant where we were treated a wonderful buffet of a great variety of Peruvian dishes including the country favorite ceviche.  In the photos below, upper far right, is a picture of our dear area president, Juan Uceda.  What a wonderful gesture of unity and love given as a "thank you" to the church employees and office missionaries.

We were greatly blessed to be with our "Assistant Area Auditors" from Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Peru.  How special it was to be with them and with Elder Montoya, via teleconference from Salt Lake.  We also were blessed to have Rahn Price, from the Church audit department with us.  Diane mentioned how the room and arrangement looked like the United Nations, with all the name plaques and countries in front of the men.  We were so blessed to be with these humble good men.  This truly is the "Payoff" of our efforts and what a time of year to gather as we are reminded of the reason we do what we do, bring others to Christ. Yes, it is even the mission as auditors in the Church.  These dear men are so humble and so greatful and gracious.  The biggest expense we have all year is in this one training.  We fly them here, we feed them catered food, we house them in a very very nice hotel.  And most come from very humble circumstances.  Even in traveling here many made great sacrifices in time and effort and even, in one instance, a near tragedy.  Our brother from Huancayo, en route with his wife in a taxi car, went off the road and rolled three times.  Miraculously no one was injured, only some scratches.  We were moved to tears listening to him describe his journey.  We want to finish with this sweet email one of our brethren from La Paz Bolivia sent today.  He wanted to express his feelings to us in his humble English:
My dear Elder Cheney:
First: Thank you for everything you for us.
Second: thanks so much to Sister Cheney. She's great.
Third: Please don't forget send me the instructions I need to know.
And the last: I'll need your help all the time in this calling. And for practice and learn more english.
Thak you very much.
God bless you all the time.

Erick Escobar

This what it is all about.  We are truly blessed to be able to associate with these good good men.  What a way to finish our year.  Now we will gird up our loins and start over again.  One year to go and loving what we do.