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

February 28, 2016

Week 53 ~ Is There a Doctor in the House?

It has been so hot. Even the Peruvians say this has been 10 degrees hotter than usual. Because our power bill was so high last month, we have cut way back on the amount we use the air conditioner or dehumidifier. Thank goodness we enjoy the comfort of the church office building all day because when we are at home we sit right under the fan to stay cool. Yesterday we took the crowded bus to the mall and enjoyed the afternoon there where it was cool, having lunch and seeing a movie, Gods of Egypt. We thought it was entertaining, good against evil, and no different than the latest Transformer, X-Men or Super Hero movie with great special effects.

In our area of five countries, including Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela and Bolivia, there are somewhere over 6,000 missionaries, 32 missions and 2 MTC’s. There are three doctors here in the area office who help with mental and physical health issues throughout the area and of great help to the mission presidents and their wives in handling the many health issues that arise.

Elder and Sister Raeside are the mental health missionaries. As of this week, there are 30 new cases and about 130 follow-up cases. So in looking at the numbers, it’s about 2% of the elders at a given time which is very good compared to any given college student body. The area doctors here are active with the English speaking elders and the Latino elders pursue treatment with local doctors. Some of the issues would be stress, depression, anxiety, and in very rare situations severe mental health problems or suicide thoughts. In the six months Elder and Sister Raeside have been here, they have had 3 such cases with previous mental health history before their mission and the missionary had to be escorted back home, one as far away as Washington.

Elder Raeside shared a sweet story from last week. He and his wife were visiting Guayaquil, Ecuador for mission president training. He went in the mission office and met an elder serving there who confided he needed a little help. Through a series of questions, Elder Raeside learned the elder’s father had served a mission in Rome, Italy. “That’s where I served,” he responded. “When did your dad serve?” Come to find out, he had served the same time AND was Elder Raeside’s zone leader! Small world. Since then, the elder shared with his dad who he had met and the two have been in contact. A week later, Elder Raeside received a note from this elder in Guayaquil sharing the difference their visit had made on his mission. He knew his Heavenly Father loved him, knew him personally and answered his prayer with the tender mercy of the visit from a doctor from the area office who knew his dad. God is very aware of his children in this great missionary work.

Elder and Sister Burton serve as physical health doctors, dealing with a variety of ailments and weird illnesses. Elder Burton is a retired heart surgeon and finds his missionary service FUN! He loves going back to the medical basics after 40 years in his specialized profession.

Some of the issues include appendicitis, knees and back pain, and gastrointestinal problems. An unusual case a few weeks ago was a bite from a Chilean Recluse Spider which caused a huge deep welt on the man’s calf that had to be excised. There have been three cases of a tape worm that lodges in the brain and causes terrible headaches. It is detected through a scan and is removed surgically. It is suspected to come from undercooked pork. Ugh! At any one given time, there are about 15% of the missionaries who are sick but that would also include the companion not able to work during the same time. That would make it about 30% out for sick leave.

Of the Latino missionaries in our area, there are almost 50% whose parents are not members or maybe only one is a member. Elder Burton talked to one Elder who had the memory of elders coming to his home and teaching his parents the Gospel. “Now,” he says, “it’s my turn to share what I know.”

In 1985 the Church began the missionary medical online service with quick reference guide for typical health issues. In addition, there are currently 2-3 doctors in every specialty field who are ready to answer calls 24-7 with questions from the mission field. Elder Burton knows everything about hearts but nothing about Recluse spider bites or intestinal parasites, but medical help is readily available through the Salt Lake hotline for any problem. Right now there are about 40 missionary doctors serving throughout the world and about 150 nurses.

Elder and Sister Sheffield went home last month and we will be getting a new medical missionary couple to help in two weeks. We are so thankful for their energy and service.

The other day Joe was riding his bike to work and he passed the MTC.  There on the corner were three young men sitting patiently.  He stopped and spoke with them and asked them if they were missionaries for the Mormon Church.  His own tag was hidden by his bag.  They spoke up and said, "not yet but we will be someday".  Joe told them he was a missionary and thought they looked like young missionaries.  They had come to Lima the day before with a group to do baptisms for the dead.  They had just finished their second day at the temple which had begun at 5:30 am.  They lived in Pulcallpa, Peru which was an 18 hour bus ride over the mountains and down to the jungle.  Joe was amazed and humbled at the love and dedication of these good good people.  He gave them a little money for their long ride home on a crowded bus and had a passerby take their picture.  He calls it "My little brothers."  

We love being with the other missionary couples who serve with us. We are in good company and enjoy sharing stories, sightseeing together, eating out, and talking about new discoveries. In our part of the office, Diane is trying to practice Spanish with the co-workers and they like to practice their English with us. Joe still teaches a class in English once a week and the English and Spanish join together every few weeks or so.

February 23, 2016

Week 52 ~ ONE YEAR in Peru

Sometimes it’s hard to think of something to write about. It seems like this week was no different than any other but it gives us a chance to really think about the little things that make up our lives, probably not very interesting. We received two Christmas gift packages Friday, sent Dec 5 and Dec 15. That was exciting missionary mail!

Just to highlight the economic problems of Venezuela due in part to the dropping oil prices, just yesterday there was a segment about Venezuela on World News. It really helps to understand and see first-hand what’s going on in that country, and it helps us as we deal with the AAA’s and local stakes and leaders in the country with their challenges. The people stand in long lines in the heat, many of them with their children, waiting to get in the grocery store. Ironically, one person had a Disney umbrella for shade. Then the camera took us into the grocery store and it was sooooo sad! The Church is not allowed to have Bishop’s storehouses because the government sees that as hording food. The only answer is to go to the streets and buy the needed items for twice the money on the Black Market. 

The Church is very aware of the problem. From our Senior Missionary, Bill Murray, we hear one of our ward buildings was confiscated by the government and is now being used for a school house because they needed it more than church services once a week. Yea! Hard to believe. The Church is just reconciled to the fact that the building is no longer church property.

Venezuela is an unusual country. In the five countries in our area, Venezuela and Colombia have the most difficulty in way of economic distress. With all five countries, the misuse of funds is pretty equal. In all, there are a total of 250 stakes with almost 3,000 local units. Problems occur when there are missing funds, embezzlement or sometimes due to robbery. With such great numbers of leaders, we are only dealing with 6-8 real problems a year. Awesome percentages when compared to world averages for business losses. Of course, the Church is more concerned about the worth of a soul, proper training and policies in place to protect the leaders

Sure helps us know how blessed we are!

Imagine the faith of the Saints who give their tithing and fast dollars freely when they have so little. The job through our office here and those we work closely with is to check the receipts and expenses of how the fast offerings are spent. When there is an irregularity, a special audit is made and questions asked. If and when the questions are not answered satisfactorily and through the spirit, the case is turned over to the ecclesiastical leaders for appropriate action.

Dianna taught the Relief Society lesson yesterday and she had quite a surprise. Sister Holland was visiting and attended the little English class. What a blessing to have her present. Diane had a video for the end of her lesson, actually with President Monson, but she asked Sister Holland to bear her testimony instead. It was so sweet and tender as she expressed gratitude for being in Peru and being able to travel with her husband. Last year she woke up one morning with a bad cough and congestion and learned she had pneumonia. She was in the hospital for two months! Finally, the doctors told her they had done all they could do and she should call her family around and make final preparations for this life. Having been through that, we knew what that was like and her testimony of God's love and answer to prayers was a blessing to hear.

Billie Murray is finishing her project of creating a timeline of the history of the church in Peru. What an awesome undertaking and accomplishment as she rolled out the timeline on the table. This will saved on a disc and copies of the timeline will be placed on a wall in all the institute buildings throughout the area. She is matching pictures to upload onto the timeline and then it will go to the publisher.

February 15, 2016


We were asked to present family home evening for the missionary couples for the month of February.  They asked us since we are the "newly weds" of  the group.  We decided to do something differently and began the evening with a potluck variety of finger foods and pastries. Sisters Burton and Raeside helped with the decorations, bless their hearts.  We then gathered in the large auditorium where all our big meetings are held and Elder Burton began by singing a song from Elvis, "I Can't Help Falling in Love With You". He has been a member of the Tabernacle Choir so it was really good even though he really hammed it up.

Joe presented a short lesson on the "patriarchal order of the Priesthood" and how the PH in the church is vertical and different than the PH in the home which is horizontal.  Diane conducted a wonderful and fun activity that we called The-Not-So-Newly-Wed game".  She did a fantastic job of identifying the questions and being the hostess.  Everyone had a fun and entertaining time. We closed with a very tender little church video, "Enduring Love."  We really did enjoy our time with our dear missionary couples.  They loved the evening and so did we, BUT we are glad it is over.  We felt the spirit together and delighted in the love and tenderness that each couple has for their partners.  We are so blessed to be able to rub shoulders with such a wonderful group of brothers and sisters.

For our little Valentine get-away, we spent the night in downtown Lima at the Sheraton Hotel with our good friends, the Murrays. We had dinner at a real authentic Mexican restaurant which are very rare here in Lima with enchiladas, burritos and nachos!

In the morning, after a delightful full buffet breakfast, we took a taxi to the City Center, the government palace, the Cathedral of Lima, Convent of Santo Domingo and Convent of San Francisco. The government palace is like our White House where the President lives and conducts the affairs of the country. The changing of the guard was at noon which included a full dress band. The guards posted at the palace stand at attention for shifts of two hours, in the sun or rain. Pretty amazing.

We caught the tail end of a street parade at the Plaza de Armas giving a festive mood with music and dancing. The sailors were handsome young men, the Amazonians nearly naked with one holding a large boa snake, and the colorful highland Peruianas liked to have their pictures taken.

Cathedral of Lima

Originally built in 1535 has been restored three specific time periods after major earthquakes destroyed the underground vaults. The last restoration was in 1940.

The main alter used for mass is in the middle surrounded with pictures of eight other chapel alters within the church. There are a total of 14 side chapels. Since the Catholic religion believe in one trinity, in order to pray to the Father one needs to go through an intercessory or Saint. All these chapels are dedicated to different Saints. The alters are made of wood painted to look like marble.

Top right is a room dedicated to Francisco Pizarro, the Spanish conquistador who conquered the Inca Empire. He was a bad man and the wall mural shows slaves being shipped to Europe. The pictures in bottom right are his remains which were found under the alter of this church. They were verified as his before DNA testing by the damage to the bones as he was beat to death. The white Christus is ivory elephant tusks from the 1600's and the other is made with wood from Italy as were the carved choir chairs.

The top pictures are of catacombs and crypts under the cathedral used for the leadership clergy. There was a room discovered with small baby coffins and since it was against policy to have general people buried in the church, these came at a high price with the belief that they had a better chance of getting to heaven if the body was buried in the church. Ironic how this grand edifice is just a hallow shell and the bones that lay underneath are only dirty piles of bones.

Look carefully at the articles of the Bishops and Cardinals. The red shoes are studded with rubies and gold lace as is the hat made with gold tassels and vine. The vest is intertwined with gold thread and very heavy. The sunburst eucharist is made of gold laden with precious stones of diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires.

We are so thankful for the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We know our prophet receives constant revelation for us today. After visiting the convents and viewing the religious practices of others, we can more fully appreciate the knowledge we have of our Heavenly Father and of our elder brother, Jesus Christ. We are privileged to know we can pray to our Father in Heaven and that he will answer our prayers.

February 1, 2016

Week 49 ~ Blessings with Adversity

Here are a few routine challenges we experience that might not be a big deal on an infrequent basis but day after day get oppressive:  We wake up most mornings at 5:30 to the stench of burning garbage. We have the constant noise of dump trucks, buses, cars, horns and car alarms. Every day the announcement of the garbage truck is made with the clanging of a large triangle and then it stops in front of our apartment to empty the two little barrels of garbage.  Diane wears her grubby shoes to walk to work through the dirt. As we walk along the road, we can reach out and touch the dump trucks and buses that speed by us kicking up plumbs of dirt and exhaust. When we need a few things at the grocery store, the walk is 20-30 minutes each way and, of course, carry the groceries home. We can always take a taxi but generally they are dirty and cost $3-5 each way and the bus is usually standing room only and packed in, so, it’s not an automatic decision but we usually take a taxi home with the groceries.

Now for the blessings! We are up early every day and get in a good exercise before going to the office. Diane likes to stay indoors and work out on the elliptical because of the dirty air and it’s just too darn hot at 6:00am. Joe bought a bike and enjoys riding and discovering new areas. Out of the office, our time is our own. Good thing because we are old and it’s nice to relax in the evening. We are so fortunate to have several good grocery stores and have plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. We really enjoy eating out and Peru has some wonderful restaurants close by that are very inexpensive compared to eating out in the states. We enjoy all the sports broadcasts and Netflix, Fox News and movie stations. We enjoy being in a mission with so many other senior couples so we can do things together and hear their stories. We are fortunate to be able to travel throughout the country of Peru and visit Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia and experience the different cultures and people. The best part is that we can talk to our children any time and FaceTime or Skype with the grandchildren. It doesn’t seem as though we are so far away when we can just call. Almost all the pictures are posted on our Blog page so the family can see a visual of our world.

Joe finally got a new chair to replace the old recliner. The old one kept shedding the cheap Naugahyde, flaking off onto his clothes and floor. We went to Jockey Plaza and picked this chair out. S/. 599 = $189. Pretty good, huh? And the owner paid for it! When it was delivered, the delivery truck couldn't get down our little street so the man had to carry it by hand two blocks. Amazing. This chair will be great!

At the office, there is a pretty big humanitarian project going on. The Merrill's are busy cleaning 36 computers, screens and laptops that came from many of the church meetinghouses in the area. They all need to be boxed up to be shipped to a school in Arequipa, very south Peru. It is a preparatory school for entering college to help the students be more successful.

We are really enjoying our mission and the rich experiences we have here. Whether spiritual, fun, educational or inconvenient and mundane, they are still rich experiences we wouldn’t have anywhere else. We are so blessed.