Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Mission Report: Ken

Coming back to the US after being in Perú for two years was, to say the least, difficult. When President Nolan, our Stake President, asked me how we felt, I blurted out, “Horrible.” He looked a little astounded and concerned. Actually, so was I. I didn’t mean to bare my feelings quite so strongly. But it was how I felt. What are we doing here when the saints in Perú have so many needs we could help with? Then there is the self-serving part. In Perú we didn’t have to worry about pulling weeds or watering trees and bushes or car insurance or for that matter anything about cars or all the other inane, mundane tasks that fill our lives. We came back and wonder why we have spent so much time and energy accruing what we thought we were going to need to be comfortable in our 60s and beyond. Remember the story Jesus told in Matthew about the young man? Matt 19:16, 18-22. 
16 ¶And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,
19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?
21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. 
I always thought how foolish the young man was. I thought how simple it would have been to follow what Jesus asked of him. Matt:29
29 And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. 
How did I miss what was being said to me too? The mission gave us a feeling that is marvelous and liberating, to be free from everything in life but doing good. It was pretty cool to be with my bride 24/7 too. Well most of the time.
We learned patience, the hard way. We speak of Mormon standard time, they speak of ‘hora peruana.' Generally, temple sessions would start within ten minutes of the appointed times. Sometimes early too. Time is fluid in Perú.  Activities would rarely begin within an hour of the starting time. Linda would regularly schedule two or three piano students at the same time knowing one would be ten minutes late, one would be 45 minutes late and one wouldn’t make it at all. One of the last district priesthood meetings I attended, where I had the assignment of the first talk, the district president said, “Elder Whitney, when you finish leading and singing the opening song, you can give the opening prayer before you give your remarks.” Just he, I and the mission president were there, and he was conducting, and the mission president was presiding. That just left me to fulfill the assignments until others would arrive. Speaking of patience, another time a young sister asked Linda to sew her a dress for her high school graduation. Marisol wanted the color ‘melon.' We went to Trujillo with her to shop for material. I didn’t know there are probably a hundred different shades that are almost melon. We saw them all and rejected them. With patience, we finally found some satiny cloth that everyone agreed was Marisol’s idea of melon. Patience comes as you begin to see people as they are, as children of God, and no longer try to mold them to your ideals or fill your expectations.
We had fun. We were involved in a myriad of activities. Our calling was member leader support, which included anything needed for the church in Virú to progress. In the middle of our time there, an elder convinced the district president the youth needed a trek experience. Just before he came on his mission he had participated on a trek in Texas and had seen the spiritual growth that follows. The district president bought into the idea and said, “Let’s do it.” About then the elder was transferred. Oh well, the president then said, "Hey, Elder Whitney, what do you know about treks?" "Nothing . . . yet." Over the next six months we found a blacksmith to form and forge the wheels. And then from Brigham Young’s drawings and specifications we designed and built five hand carts. The lack of attendance at the training sessions, worried us. We were afraid there would be few participants. Linda kept busy the last weeks before the trek making and teaching how to make bonnets, full skirts, caps and suspenders. The day of the trek we were pleasantly amazed to find over 100 youth dressed generally in pioneer garb excitedly waiting to go on a trek. We walked 17 kilometers out along the Virú River to the foothills of the Andes, camped and walked back past the pre-Incaica ruins at Tomaval Castle the next day. The testimony meeting at the conclusion let us know they understood.
At 18 months, we were burned out. We kept trying to think of excuses to come back home. We had just spent another Christmas in a foreign land, celebrating in a foreign way. We were far from our children and our comfortable homes. Summer was starting, the sun burned hot in the sky, and the temperature didn’t change day to night. It was always hot. No A/C, no swimming pools, just sweat and BO. You’d leave sacrament meeting dripping wet and go into the classrooms to boil or bake. We felt old and exhausted.
One of our daughters suggested that she come to Perú for a visit. She and one of our sons would come down for a week if we could find time. All of a sudden we had purpose again. I’m not sure we ever told them how much that meant to us. By the time we finally went, with almost all of our children and their spouses visiting us, and our beloved Perú, we had the trip of a lifetime.
Before we left, we spent years telling ourselves we will be going on a mission soon. As soon as we sell the house in NV, or as soon as we finish the house in AZ, or as soon as finish off some other excuse. We were really just scared or maybe just too nervous. How can we leave our family..., toys…, or life as we know it? If you find yourselves in that same place, with excuses or fear, here's the straight skinny. It’s not that bad, in fact it is great. 
So in January, at 18 months, we felt we were done, ready to go home. But at the end, when the time had come, the walrus said, to speak of many things, of ships and string and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings. I mean, when the time had come to depart Perú, we felt we were leaving too soon.
Another thing that happen at the 1st of the year was our involvement in the “capillas abiertas” or open house program. They were designed as mini visitor centers. We had displays that told of Christ, prophets, the Book of Mormon, families and temples. The idea was to have an open house in each chapel in the mission. We began in the Andes Mountains, which was great because it was cool at 10,000 feet. Hard to breathe but cool. We were able to miss much of February on the coast where the summer heat is intense. We would have a presentation 3rd hour on Sunday, explain the purpose and our part, and what we would like to see from the members. The next Saturday we would set up our banners or displays, help the members get situated with theirs and open up the chapels for a couple of hours. The members put together some amazing displays. As they spoke of their different auxiliaries or programs the words would come straight from the heart. You could feel the power and spirit in their words. Most of the members are 1st generation converts and have seen and felt the difference the gospel makes in lives first hand. That happiness and joy of their new lives comes out as they speak of the gospel. We would generally have between 100 to 120 visitors at the open houses. Once in Huaraz, in the rain, we had 500. There were also occasions when visitors asked to join the church right now. We learned that spiritual experiences have less to do with what is going on around us and more to do with what is seen with our hearts. 
We saw and felt many examples of Christ-like love. The obvious time was after the floods. We tend to be parsimonious with our worldly goods here in the US. Members in Perú are poor beyond our comprehension, yet were generous and loving. With the poverty came a humility that we don’t normally see here. Everyone and anyone was welcomed with open arms and friendship regardless of how they dressed or looked. It was not unusual to see all manner of dress in meetings. Pets would occasionally follow their families to the meetings. You should have seen Linda jump when the neighborhood dog, Bonnie, licked her ankles during the sacrament. 
We had a mission norm or guide to not eat with members or investigators. Not only for health reasons, but for regardless of their economic condition, you would be served the best of their best. Often leaving a family with nothing for the rest of the week. Despite their humble circumstance, their generosity taught us what John spoke of when he wrote Jesus’ words in John 15 verses 12 and 17. 
“This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.  And These things I command you, that ye love one another.” 
This was the greatest lesson we learned in Perú. Our feelings and actions towards others, rather than what wealth we pile up, measure our success.

Mission Report: Linda

What a joy to stand here today with a special message for all of you. And that message is that serving a mission is full of joy and blessings. We spent two years in the Peru Trujillo South Mission as leader/member support missionaries. To sum it up, I have to agree with President Monson when he said: I know of no field which produces a more bounteous harvest of happiness than the mission field.
While I have never been much of a leader in the church, in the mission I was considered an "expert" at everything. I call this the miracle of the mission. In fact we went beyond experts. Sometimes we felt like rock stars. Wherever we went, strangers noticed our missionary name tags. They always had hugs, kisses and handshakes for us, and sometimes mangos and watermelon. If you've ever had fantasies of being treated like a rock star, serving a mission in Peru is just for you. We were really treated well.  
Our mission was filled with miracles. If you've ever had an experience where you felt the spirit so strongly that you didn't want it to end, then you understand what I mean when I say, the spirit was our constant companion. One of the miracles of our mission was when our district president, which is like a stake president in the mission field, asked us to do a pioneer trek. Now I know many of you have been on treks. I've often heard the youth say they wish they could keep the spirit as their constant companion, just like on their trek. Well let me tell you, that's how it is when you serve a mission. You get the spirit as your constant companion, and there's nothing like it! 
We started out in the pueblo of Virú, in the tiny branch of Nuevo Chao where I helped run the primary with two other sisters, Lydia and Trinidad. Trinidad taught me a new meaning for the word "terremoto," which is what she called the children sometimes. "Terremoto" means earthquake, and earthquakes are a common occurrence in Peru... just like spirited primary children. Together with our little terremotos we did sharing time, taught lessons, prepared a sacrament meeting program, held activities and a chocolatada party, and I taught all the singing. We loved the traditional songs at Christmas: "Mi burrito sabanero" about riding the wise donkey to Bethlehem, and "Cholito Jesús" about how Jesus was born in the mountains of Peru as a humble Cholito. And the wise men brought gifts of quinoa and chicha. I asked the children, Since the wise men came from the East, where did they come from? From the Andes mountains, of course! Oh, I learned something new! 
The day before we went into the MTC, we received a phone call from Peru, from the missionary couple we would replace. They wanted to make sure I knew that I was to teach piano lessons. What? I don't even play the piano! This is another miracle of the mission. Over the two years, I had dozens of students. Many of them now accompany the singing in Sacrament meetings. 
One who stands out is Mary. It all started with her dad Brother Quintana who sells sebada. It's a cereal beverage like Postum or Pero, sometimes hot sometimes cold, but usually air temperature. He brews it from toasted grain, then loads it up in big buckets on his bicycle cart. He serves it in little plastic bags with a straw, or in glasses that he washes in a pan of water, also on the cart. One day after he offered us drinks, he asked if he could take piano lessons. I taught Brother Quintana several weeks, and then he confessed that the only reason he wanted piano lessons was so his 12-year-old daughter Mary could learn. So I taught them both, until Brother Quintana admitted he was just too busy. Mary however practiced diligently and was soon playing simplified hymns in church. I loved watching her parents beam with pride. Now she's also playing from the regular hymn book. She's such a shy tiny willow of a girl, it's always a pleasant surprise to see her perform so boldly.  I loved to tease Brother Quintana by telling him, "Mary's my best student, but you're my worst!" Another miracle of the mission came from our district president in Virú. Before I realized our "expert" status, he asked me to organize a choir for the District of Virú Conference coming up. Imagine my dismay and fear, as I had absolutely no experience directing music. Since the choir members all seemed to sing their own out of tune version, I decided we'd better sing unison. Things went okay until Elder Rivera started howling like a coyote in the back. I had to turn around and bite my tongue to keep from laughing. They must have thought we were a success though because they kept inviting me back to lead Christmas choirs, more conference choirs, and even primary and youth choirs, and with parts too. At our going away party one of the sisters gave a talk and thanked me for my choirs. She said I was always patient and complimentary, even though everyone knew they sang horribly.
President Monson also says: As you serve, you will build rich eternal memories and friendships. This reminds me of the Pulido family. The young missionaries often asked us to meet with families they were teaching because we could tell them about our family and the special blessings the church has for families.
During our first weeks in the mission, Elder Castillo asked us to meet a family he was teaching. They were so delightful, it was hard to believe they weren't already members. Manuel and Rosalia have two beautiful daughters, Liseth and Maite, ages 16 and 12 when we first met them.  Manuel said he had been praying for help to make his marriage and family better. The very next day the missionaries knocked on his door. We tried to stop Elder Castillo from breaking rules to hurry up their baptism, but he was determined since he was about to go home. And he pulled it off the last day of his mission by getting them married on a Saturday. Peruvians don't typically get legally married, so marriage is a step they take before baptism. They were baptized the next day on Sunday. Then Elder Castillo  packed his suitcase with his wet baptism clothes inside and left. A year later we went with the Pulidos to be sealed in the Trujillo temple. We taught them the temple lessons, as well as some of the missionary lessons, not to mention pizza lessons and brownie lessons. Rosalia taught me to make cebiche and lomo saltado. 
The girls, Maite and Liset along with their cousin Mauricio took piano lessons for a while. They didn't get far, and the lessons always seemed to end with Maite grabbing my phone and taking selfies of us all. She had a talent for selfies, not for playing the piano. 
I remember shopping with Rosalia at the temple store. I told her to get her husband's clothes in the same size that Ken wore. She said, "No, my husband's fatter than your husband."
And I said, "No, my husband's fatter than your husband!" In Peru, it's not an insult to call someone fat, or gordo. In fact calling someone gordo is a compliment. However, I still don't like it when my husband call me "Gorda." He insists it means he loves me, but I can think of better ways to say it. In the end it didn't matter who was fatter, because they wouldn't sell us the clothing until Manuel came in person. After the temple sealing, they held a big wedding reception and invited all their family members from near and far. Manuel said it was a missionary tool to teach them all the gospel. Manuel has served in the Virú District presidency, and now he's a branch president. The Pulido family radiates the joy of the gospel in their lives and in their faces. I miss them so much. 
President Uchtdorf often quotes from one of my favorite books, The Little Prince, "It is only with the heart that one sees well. What is essential is invisible to the eye." In other words, we need the Holy Spirit to see clearly, and if it comes from the heart, it comes with love. Material possessions matter so little. My impressions of our mission come from my heart, and I hope you can see them through your own hearts. During the month of March, we had the blessing of visiting Cusco and Macchu Picchu with ten of our children including spouses. This is an area of famous ruins that displays the events of third Nephi when Christ visited America. They promise blessings for serving a mission. I made my list of blessings, but this blessing of sharing Peru with our family was so grand it never made my list. It was wonderful. 
When we returned home to Trujillo, we stepped out of the airport to find the city devastated by floods. Our pueblo Virú, an hour south, was hit even harder. They had flash floods come down from the mountains seven nights in a row, each time taking out a different part of the pueblo. The main bridge on the Pan American Highway in Virú collapsed, taking several cars and their passengers with it. This halted delivery of food and other supplies for 2 weeks. Children went to bed at night trembling with fear, asking their parents if the water was going to come get them in the night. Adobe houses washed away because adobe mud bricks are water soluble. So about a fourth of the people lost their homes. Neighbors banded together to help one another. Everyone found somewhere to live while they worked on rebuilding. Our church became a temporary shelter. They helped one another with love. They did like Jesus said, "As I have loved you, love one another. This new commandment, love one another. By this shall men know, ye are my disciples. If ye have love, one to another."
The young missionaries in our mission sometimes asked if I was sad about missing our family and grandchildren. I told them we were blessed to have all the missionaries in our mission as grandchildren, and all the church members as family, and that we loved them all. 
The gospel is a message of love. We love one another. We share our message that the gospel has been restored in these latter days, and we do it out of love. Jesus said, In as much as ye have done it to the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Serving a mission is an act of love too. The irony is we get back more love and more blessings than we give. We get to feel the spirit as a constant companion. We get to have constant answers to our prayers. We get to grow our testimonies. Yes serving a mission is doing the work of the Lord. 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Virú, our final Puertas Abiertas

Our final Puertas Abiertas was Saturday in Virú Pueblo. Before that we did Virú Puente and Chao. With record numbers of referrals, we felt like the program went out with a bang!

 Presenting the Puertas Abiertas in Palermo, Trujillo

She always yelled "Chau" as we walked  away. 

This gal always gave us the best produce for the best prices. 

Hermanas Marisol, Fullmer, & Muñoz in Virú

Elders Morán & Flores

Elders Johnson & Daza

Hermanas Muñoz & Marisol

Societal de Socorro Virú Pueblo

La Primaria with Patti

Fernanda Huamanchumo & Micaela

Hombres Jovenes with Raul

Mujeres Jovenes with Yahaira Zanelli and the youngest Huamanchumo 

Gianpierre Zanelli

Jhon Vargas

Hermana Payne

Roberto & Eliza at Puerto Morín

Brownies: Hna Fullmer, Fernanda, Patti & mom, Micaela, Angie, Hna Muñoz 

Hna Fullmer


Marisol & Rosa

Flor, Maddisson & Overcito, Elders Plock, Tuares, Morán, Velasquez



New missionaries May, 2017

Luis Quintana

Elders Quevedo & Elliot

Hermanas Mayra Ortiz & Milagros

Hermanas Perez & Muñoz

The twins: Alissa & Susana Chavarria 

Renzo Blas

Elders McMillan & Stroud

Elders Walker & Johnson

Presi Overcito, Rosa, Hna Ricardina

Elders Tuares & Plock

Elders Daza & Alarcon

Hermanas Perez & Muñoz

Elders Elliot & Quevedo

La Primaria in Chao

Sociedad de Socoro with Hna Ricardina

Hermanas Herrera & Dallimore

Elders Pacco, Cruz, Gonzales, Quevedo

Distrito Huaraz

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The time has come

"The time has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things...of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings." Oddly enough, the time has come. June 1st we're leaving Perú. The last few months we haven't written much. One of the reasons is everything looks normal to us; nothing surprises us anymore. As Matthias suggested, maybe things will look so strange when we get home that we'll have to write about it. Two years has turned strangers into friends and neighbors. Oddities are now commonplace. Arriving back from a multi zone conference in Chimbote where we said goodbye to everyone, we stepped into our Virú apartment late that night and thought, "Ah, we're home." But wait, this is not home; it only seems like it after two years. During the bus ride from Chimbote I was struck with the realization that the juxtaposition of the stark desert with the verdant irrigated mango groves, asparagus and sugar cane fields no longer catches my attention. A crowded bus with standing room only, except for the chickens that were laying.... this is our new normal. Streets crowded with vendors selling everything from necklaces to 3-course dinners seem appropriate. They squeeze in between the pedestrians, bicycles, motos, cars, vans, trucks, buses and semis that jockey for a spot on the pavement. Avenida Virú is alive. It's as if someone kicked over an ant hill. Wierdly, the scene no longer feels foreign.

A normal day at the market in Virú 

Business as usual at the dress shop

Produce is getting back to normal after the floods. Check out the white asparagus. 

Luis sells his cebada, a drink made from toasted grain. 

They just filled the ATM.

Susana runs the family grocery store. 

Meanwhile Guillermo's at home laying tile in the new room he built. 

Little Abril wasn't even conceived yet when we arrived. 

President Pioneer with his family in his print shop. 

Patti has two pets. 

President Pulido and his family hadn't yet heard the gospel when we first arrived. 

Our good neighbors, Erita and Refugio

He has a heavy duty sewing machine for repairing shoes. He sewed bags to carry our Puertas Abiertas displays.