Sunday, March 21, 2010

Saludos a nuestras familias y amigos

Well it is late Sunday afternoon and I am getting my first chance to write a few words for the blog and we have an appointment tonight at 8:00 in Imperial. My father always said that the road to hell (infierno in Peru) is paved with good intentions and based on that my road must have two lifts of intention on it by now. When I wrote the last blog I was determined that I would write one smaller issue each week and in the long run it would save me time, so much for good intentions.

Many of the people that read our blog will be familiar with the church hymn “I stand all amazed” and that is exactly how we feel much of the time about the experiences that we have here. Some of the experiences are extremely positive and some not so much, nonetheless we stand all amazed.

Two weeks ago the Mission President sent a late Saturday night email telling us that mission application papers had been sent for one of the young men in one of the branches we are assigned to and that he had not completed the necessary medical requirements and asked that we track him down. We were not sure we new him and if it was who we thought we had not seen him for months. The next morning we met with the District Presidency and asked them about the young man and we were surprised to hear them report that Mariano was not going to serve, he was not attending church, and was not keeping his interview appointments.

We were disappointed to say the least because we new that his mission had been paid for by another person from Canada. Notwithstanding we sent a response to president and advised him of the same. We were troubled by the report but did not know what to do, there were obstacles, like we were not sure we knew him, the always present language thing, we did not know where to start looking for him and if his leaders could not find him how could we?

The next morning was preparation day, the day we have for recreation and fun with the missionaries, so as we left the house with a prayer on our lips and in our hearts that we would find some way to contact Mariano we started out. It takes a couple of minutes to walk out of our community and then we usually have to wait for a while until we find a ride in a combie, moto, or taxi. This day however, as we walked up to the gate at the entrance to the barrio, we immediately waived down a moto that was empty and passing in our direction. It was unusual for that time of the day to catch a ride that quick unless….

You guessed it, we found Mariano, he was driving the moto. What are the chances of that? We did not know where to find him but someone did.

We got his phone number and told him that we were looking for him and how blessed we were that he stopped for us that morning. We put the President in touch with him that day and we now have a young man back on track, what a joy to see him in church today.

We wish that everything turned out that quickly and that well.

This week was transfer week which is always an exciting time for the missionaries as a transfer means new companions, new adventures, and a change of scenery. For us, we never have a change of companions, we know that we are not changing areas, and we will have to say good bye to the friends we have made when the missionaries move. I think Debbie really was hoping for a change this time because she decided we should move apartments (then said it was all my idea) so this weekend we are moving a couple of blocks away but in the same barrio. (Pictures next issue.)

Two missionaries that we have really grown to love were on their last transfer and have gone home to resume civilian life. Hermana Labeau went home to Logan Utah and Elder Servan went home to Peru.

Hermana Labeau, who we can now call Shauna, was with us for our first three months of our mission and helped us through many of our early challenges and taught us many lessons. Most importantly she demonstrated how to care about people. It is a trait that eludes most men and comes more naturally to the sister missionaries. I really notice it in my companion as well and not as much with her companion. We were excited that we could go to Lima and see both Shauna and Elder Servan at the Temple and wish them well in the next phase of their lives.

Going to Lima is always an adventure because once you are of the bus you are at the mercy of taxi drivers or pickpockets on the combies. When it comes down to it they are about equal. The taxi drivers always give us the gringo pricing to see how much they can rip us off for. On the bus if you have to stand you are luck to still have your pants by the time you get off. I prefer the taxi because I know that it is my hand in my pocket giving away my money.

The funny/sad thing about the free market taxi system is that often we walk away from sever gringo pricing and the driver will go 10 or 15 more minutes without a fare. (Fare, funny name for a transaction that has nothing to do with fairness.) Not that integrity is even in the lexicon of the majority of the taxistas but often they are willing to trade it for what amounts to a buck and a half. Tuesday I had a driver quote an amount (you always settle on the price before you start or you will be sorry) that was two thirds of what we normally pay for a ride that we have taken several times for a moment I thought the pendulum had swung the other way and I was on the winning side. When arrived I paid him the customary fare because he had either treated me fairly and I did not want the crooks to be better off than him or that we had always been treated fairly and he made a mistake that would cost him in the end. Either way it was fare/fair to me.

The other big plus in going to Lima is our visit with Elder and Hermana Cleverly. They have the inside track on everything in Lima and this time they took us to a new restaurant discovery just a few blocks from their home. Chifa food (Chinese) that was outstanding. Good food, good friends, who could ask for anything better.

Our photos storey tells a lot of what we have done in the past two weeks. You will see that we have been to the beach a couple of times and partied with our friends.

We were passing the Plaza de Armas in San Vicente one afternoon and saw this group of traditional dancers. It was very colorful but the tall dancer in the middle had makeup that gave us nightmares for several days. We stopped thinking that they would perform for a while but they started around the park, then, down the street and off into the sunset.

This one of our trips to the beach. This is one of our special families in Mala that are waiting for the opportunity and ability to get married so that the whole family can enjoy the blessings of the gospel together. Five of their children have accepted the gospel. We continue to work with the missionaries, Elder Bearnson and his new companion, and the parents.

We have developed a great friendship with Zulma since we met her with Elders Nova and Garey a couple of months ago and were delighted when she accepted the invitation to be baptized. We had a very special experience assisting her through challenging questions that she had.

Elder Nova is getting ready to bite into this hamburger. This was on our preparation and we all went to Asia to have lunch. This is at the TGI Fridays restaurant, we had to bring our own Dr. Pepper but they supplied the Jack Daniels burgers, Heinz ketchup, and french fries. No pollo and arroz today.

Good food, Good friends, and the good Dr. what more could we ask for.

By now you should recognize Iber and Chabella and this is their wedding day. They were two happiest people in Canete at this moment. (Maybe not when they find out that this is the only picture that turned of their wedding.) We consider ourselves fortunate to be a part of their lives and see them taking this important step in their lives.

The next day we went to the beach with them and took another important step with them.

Elder Servan and Elder Bearnson are the next happiest people on the planet as they experience the fruit of their labors. This past Friday we visited Iber and Chabella and Nicholas and we taught about eternal families and we set a date to go to the temple one year from that day.

Most people don't know this but Debbie is a magician, she can make 5 Kilos of spaghetti disappear. She just needs to invite the Zone over for diner the night before transfers. This has become a tradition in our zone and is one of little things that we do to give something back to the missionaries that share so much with us.

Elder Servan with two more sleeps before he sleeps in his own cama(bed) after two fantastic years.

Hermanas Mendoza and Huertes. Hermana Huertes is temporary misionera from a ward in Lima and was with us for about 5 weeks. Although she is not planning a full time mission she has a plan and it is to get married in just a few months.

We managed to get this picture with Hermana Labeau at the Lima temple taken prior to finding out that we weren't to take pictures in this spot. She has been serving in Ica since December and we had a great reunion.

That is a slight look of fear on Elder Servans face as it sinks in that he will be home in Chiclayo for dinner that night. He has been "un misionero ser obedientes" it has been an honor to be with him.

In between the trips to the beach, the weddings, and lunches at TGIF we always manage to find meaningful service to perform. This was a rather large stack of adobe bricks that we moved from the from of this home, through the home, to back of the home.

Our group photo with the benefactor of our service day in front. This wonderful 80 year old sister was so very gracious for our help and went and purchased a little package of soda crackers for us and while we were carrying the bricks should stood at the door and told some relato (story) that not even the Peruvian missionaries could follow.

Saturday night we invited to Juan Carlos and Adriana's for a Peruano meal fixed by Juan Carlos' mother, sitting between Juan Carlos and I. We even had Peru Cola to go with it. It was delicious and fun. I am not sure how it was Juan Carlos' mother as the conversation flipped from Spanish, English, Spanglish, and bad Spanish.

One thing is for sure she will not have any doubts as to whether we are crazy or not. After dinner we all played a civilized game of UNO. Okay it was cut throat UNO and anything but civilized.

They did not take me seriously when I said that after such a good meal I like to take a siesta but you just have to ask my kids what dad does after Sunday dinner.

Every day is a new and interesting experience for us and most of the time it is a wonderful experience. We have learned that we can expect the unexpected. We have learned that things are only as difficult or easy as we choose to make them. The hand of the Lord is revealed only to those that look for it.

We enjoy hearing from each of you so feel free to drop us a line.

Until next time, WE ARE IN PERU NOW!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Saludos a nuestra Familia y Amigos

Thank you to those of you that wrote and expressed concern as to whether we were near or affected by the huge earthquake in Chile. Gratefully we are sufficiently far away from the destruction that ravaged that part of Chile. Since the major event on Saturday morning there has been more than 20 aftershocks ranging from 4.5 to 6.3 and yesterday there was a quake of 4.5 in Peru about 450 kilometers north and east of where we live. Again we did not feel anything here.

Saturday morning we went to Mala for a baptism and as soon as we arrived two mothers in the branch were waiting to ask if we had news about the missionaries in Chile. They both have sons serving in Santiago, which was essentially the epicenter of the quake, and were understandably concerned. All we could do was to assure them that the mission president there would be on top of the situation. And he was. By noon all of the missionaries, save two, had been located and through the emergency channels of the Church all families were notified by there respective priesthood leaders. It is amazing to see how effective the leadership network is inside of the church.

Our work here continues, one step forward two steps back(or at least it seems), but it continues. Traditions and habits are difficult to change with the leaders and they easily revert to the old practices. We frequently tell them that we are sure that at the time that whom ever started doing what ever it is that they are doing it seemed like a really good idea, to them, however we now need to adjust to the prescribed way as we find it in the general handbook of instructions. All we can do is love them and try again.

We had heard about the “Norteamericano” that owned the casa next door and we wondered who, what and why they would have a home here, well we found out. A couple weeks back our neighbours, John and Carmen, came to visit their Peru home here in Cañete. They live in Houston Texas now and spend a few weeks here every year. They met here, some years ago, when John was working in the Peace Corp. Carmen was born in Cañete and much of her family still lives here so a few years ago they decided to build a home with a view to perhaps spending more time here in the future.

John and I were sharing some ideas about water purification and water quality. I told him about some information that my sister, Marilyn, had sent to me and that she had said that bleach (here we go again another bleach story) has saved more lives than almost any other chemical. John is an engineer and he concurred and said that he pours a half a bottle of bleach in his water cistern every time he arrives here just a precaution. As I thought about it I thought that it sounded like a pretty good idea.

The water cistern is an 1100 liter tank that sits on the roof of the casa and as I thought about the formula for purifying water with bleach it would take 4400 drops of bleach. With that, theoretically if not actually, the water would be pure enough to drink. How tedious would it be to count out 4400 drops of bleach, in the scorching sun, if you made a mistake there is no way to start over, but John said, “half a bottle.” Instantly that seem like the right thing to do.

On the weekend we started to experience and infestation of ants and the trail lead to the roof so while I was on the roof spreading the lethal dose of DDT and other toxins I decided that today was the day to bleach the water cistern. I called down to Debbie to toss the bleach up to me so she did. I added about half a bottle of bleach to the tank. Regretfully John and Carmen left for home last week before I could ask him what size of bottle he used.

My eyes are stinging, the house smells like a swimming pool, my tan is gone, but our shirts are really white.

We have a few picture to share which tell more of the story of what we have been up to.

Remember the familia Chambergo/Libon? They are one of our special familias in Canete that we have come to love very much. Kiara, front next to me was taught by the hermanas and I baptised her in November. This picture is at the baptism of her half brother, Jean Pierre, Rosa's son. We have visited in their home many times over the months and have experienced the change that they have gone through. You will see more of them in this issue.

But first a little divertido (fun) with our mission familia. Note the kid in the middle with the long blond (rubia) hair. Where she fits in best, in the middle.

It is hard to tell the missionaries apart from the statues as all of the colors mix well. This is our preparation day and we have taken the combie to Quilmana to the Zoo. It is always great to have a little time to relax, visit, and get to know the missionaries outside of there role as missionaries. We really have a special group.

Elders Novoa, Bearnson and Walker taking a walk on the wild side as the four of us went scrambling in the rocky hills next to the park. From the top of these hills which feel like mountains we can see where the real mountains are, the Andes, with peaks surpassing 19,000 feet.

This group of elders love to play football (soccer). It is played on a court like basket ball and is about the same size. Debbie in the middle of this play although she is usually picked first to play goal because they know that the other team will be afraid to drill the ball at her because she will likely kill them.

Thursday is our service project day and today we are assisting the familia Chambergo/Libon level an area at the bank of the canal that passes there home. Rosa wants to plant a garden and with our help she will reclaim an usable piece of ground that has a built in water source. It is interesting to see how as the gospel changes lives it changes the desires and wants of people and they want to better themselves, proving that all motivation comes from within.

Our group photo, missing hermana Whitney as she is the photographer, in front of one of the piles of fill that needs to be moved to build up the bank. We used the fill to make sand bags retain the earth as we built up along the canal. We then placed concrete chunks and rocks to tier back from the sand bags, then back filled the retaining wall compacting with water as we went. Project manager and leader, Debbie, was in charge. The heat was sweltering and everyone kept asking how she managed to keep working.

The project was not quite finished as we ran out of fill but we managed to raise the bank about 4 feet and moved about 10 yards of fill and carried a couple thousand pounds of rocks and concrete.

Later that same day we went with Presidente Huarhua to visit less active members of his branch where we met Vincente and Angelina. We asked her when the last time she bore her testimony was and she answered that she has never had the confidence to get up in church to do so. She then bore a sweet powerful witness. It moved her husband that has not been attending church with her. It was a powerful conclusion to the day.

Earlier in the week we met Rosa and Hubert(Chambergo/Libon) at the Civil Registry in Canete to do the paperwork and application for them to be married. As their padrones we were also the "testigos" (witnesses) which meant that we needed add our fingerprints to the documents before they could be approved for marriage. This is one of the small milagros that attends every thing we do. In order to be the witnesses we needed to have our government ID (Carnet Tarjeta), which they have required of us every time before, which was in the mission office in Lima getting our annual approval stamp. We had nothing offical for ID except for a photo copy of our passports so we took those and with a prayer we went. The first thing they asked for was our carnet so I handed them the photo copies and as the registrar was looking at them the other lady in the office says, oh, they are okay I know them they live in my barrio. Well, we don't know her, never met her. But that was all it took.

Friday at noon we joined the familia Chambergo/Libon at the salon de ceremonies and witnessed them take a very big step toward realizing one of their new dreams.

Huberts parents joined us in this picture with their familia. They were very happy for them and one day I believe the will find out how this blessing will have a big impact on them.

The next morning, Saturday, we attended baptism at the ocean with the elders from Mala. I know that it looks like we got caught not watching and a wave hit us but in reality Elder Bearnson and I were witness and we had to go out to where the baptism was done which meant that we had to go out to waist deep water with Elder Servan and Harold.

After the baptism in Mala we had to catch the bus back to Canete where we had a date with the familia Chambergo/Libon. What a rich experience to culminate the week by baptising Hubert and Rosa. This was also a first in Canete, the meeting started on time, you will never understand how significant that is to have a meeting start on time until you experience it life here.

I know that this picture looks like it should be post scripted with "And they all lived happily ever after." This the end for this family but it is the front end and they are now on the path to happily ever after.

I know that I have said this before but I can't help but to say it again. "I don't know why we are so blessed to have the experiences that we are having, we just are."

You will never see the hand of the Lord until you look for it.

Les amo mucho!!!

Los Whitney en Canete