Saturday, December 18, 2010

Saludos a Nuestras Familia y Amigos


It is the season to be jolly, happy, and thankful and for many of us it is a time to reflect on the many blessings we have in our lives. Often our thoughts lead us to reflect upon our families and loved ones, those that are near us and those that are far distant. How grateful we can be for the birth of the Christ Child through which we have the hope of a far brighter day when distances of all types will be shortened.

We have been touched by the emails that we have received this Christmas Season from our family and friends to remind us that we continue to be in their thoughts and prayers. We are grateful for this sustaining influence in our lives and want all of you to know how important it has been to us to hear from you. We miss and love you all.

We have been getting ready for Christmas, on the first of December Debbie decorated la casa and we put up our tree, unlike the three day process that it was at home, it only took about an hour and that was with a 30 minute break for lunch. We plug in our tree before we leave in the evening and even though it only has one string of lights it is enough to warm our hearts when we get home that night.

It is times like this that I am really glad that my companion really knows how to make a house a home.

We have already had some awesome Christmas experiences and one that I consider to be a real highlight of our mission. The Imperial Branch sponsored a Christmas activity in a very humble little pueblo adjacent to the town. They met with the community leaders and obtained the names and ages of every child in the community then set about to provide presents and a chocolaterra for everyone. A chocolaterra is very rich hot chocolate drink with Panetones (a traditional type of fruit bread that is more a part of Christmas here than Santa Claus). We were very concerned how they would pull it off as many of the members that we were asking to donate gifts and food were in at least as humble of circumstances as the people we to help, but with some sacrifice they did it. (Some picture to follow, but not many as we were too involved in the experience to take a lot of pictures.) We provided gifts for 88 children and refreshments for everyone.

We have had a lot of touching experience since we arrived here but to see some of these precious little children receive these gifts really filled us. The other part was that the gifts came not from the excess of giver but from the sacrifice of the giver.

Yesterday we were in Lima for a very special conference with Elder Juan Uceda of the Seventy. Elder Uceda is a native Peruano, however has been living in New Jersey for the past number of years managing the family business, and is an incredibly inspired teacher. He has recently been assigned to our Area Presidency and is now living in Lima. We first met a few weeks ago at the temple, he has an amazing capacity to make you feel like you have always been friends. I knew who he was but other than our plaques identifying us as missionaries he had no idea who we were. He walked up to us and thanked us for being here and serving the people of his country, he proceed to speak but in very fast Spanish, I said “por favor Elder mas despacio mi español no esta muy bien.” With out a pause he said “then we will speak in English.”

Elder Uceda had some interviews to do after the conference so we were able to spend a little time getting acquainted with Hermana Uceda. As we were getting acquainted she complemented us on our Spanish and said that after nine years in USA she could speak very little English, almost none. I wanted to tell her that it was because she was in New Jersey and that what they speak in New Jersey compared to English is like comparing Quechua to Spanish. But I didn’t.

Subsequent to that meeting we received an invitation to move to Lima and work in the Area Presidents office. The Area President felt that since we have had a few health struggles that we might enjoy working in the office and we would be closer to better medical services. We have some dear friends that work in the office so I called them to find out more about the work and as he started to tell me what we would be doing all I could hear was “you will be working in the office” and I did not hear anything about how we would be meeting with the people. We know that their service there is important and vital but the work we do here is important and vital and real. So many of the office staff have said that their next mission they want to do what we are doing so we could not see why we would trade what we have for what they don’t want.

I couldn’t help but think of everyone back home experiencing the reality of winter as I was applying a liberal layer of sun screen on my face and balding head before we left for the day. It does not seem as weird this year that Christmas in the summer and not in the winter since most of winter here is nicer than summer at home. Honestly I do not miss the cold.

Well, we have a bunch of pictures to help tell our story so we will get on with them.

This fantastic view is from the Tee box on the 6th hole at the Asia Golf course. It is beautiful little 160 yard par 3, seven iron from an elevated tee. What a contrast from the brown mountains where no blade of grass grows. We had free preparation day and managed to play a round.

A couple of months back we introduced Gustavo, Natalie, and their precious daughter to you. Debbie and I had to go to Jesus Maria (a city inside of Lima) to obtain Gustavo's partida de nacimiento(birth certificate) so that we could register for a Masivo Wedding in Imperial. The Masivo saves a lot of money when you can get in on them. The day we went to register we found that they had changed the date for the ceremony and we did not have time to qualify.

After the wedding in Imperial the members in the Quilmana branch put on a reception for them in the casa capilla. This is Gustavo's parents, la familia Chumpitaz (we have know them for a while and have eaten in their home several times). Dancing seems to find it's way in to almost every find of fiesta, and although we did not capture it on film Debbie and I gave them thrill when we decided to cut a little rug with them.

Elder Sardon, whose labor has been instrumental in so many of the positive advances in the Quilmana branch, was transferred just a few days after the wedding. He is missed be everyone especially us.

Carlos and Meri with their four children live in this tarp covered hut which is situated in the corner of their bosses yard. Meri, in the red, is cooking sopa seca for our lunch over an open fire. It is her kitchen.This is Carlos and Meri. We have been working the missionaries for about 6 months to get them into a position where they can be married and them baptized. Some of the situations take a lot more straightening than others

Our service project was to help Carlos prepare his bosses new building for paint. We went back in two weeks and then painted it. Elder Ewing from Los Vegas is standing next to me and not that I can reach almost as high as him, when I am standing on a gas can. This is not an uncommon story here but nonetheless it is still sad, his boss only pays him enough to keep them from starving and never what he owes him.

Meri raises chickens, her hens just hatched a new little brood. They are so cute!

Although their future is not bright the chicks do grow up to a good purpose as evidenced by the delicious chicken sopa seca that Meri served us for lunch that afternoon.

Elders Salcedo and Ewing had a baptizm just before thanksgiving and invited us to participate.

Transfers are an enevitable part of mission service and seems that we are say adios to another special misssionary. Elder Cuque is one of the ones that we consider special and look forward to seeing him at multi-zone conferences.

Helen Tucker, with glasses on, invited us to thanksgiving dinner thanksgiving day. Helen and Juana were busy fixing dinner when I surprised them with a picture. They do not have or celebrate thanksgiving in Peru but since Helen is from West Virgina she invited us to a back home type feast.

Helen with her three children Swatara, Talon and Teric. It was a delicious meal, Debbie brought some of her famous candied yams. After the picture Helen asked me if I would like to offer a prayer over the food, which I did, and then we got down to some serious eating.

The next day we had turkey agian. This time with the Missionaries from Quilmana, San Vicente, and Imperial. This the before picture of our 15 Kilo bird. We had Juana our lady that fixes our weekly turkey sandwiches, cook our turkey and potatoes. Note the head on stutus of the bird. When I went to pick it up I could sense an photo oportunity coming.

Many of the Latino missionaries are not used to a meal where the food is passed around the table. Uusally their meals are served on a plate and that is all you get. Today the all ate as much as they wanted. From the 30lb turkey we had enough left over to make four sandwiches.

Saturday Nov. 26 we had a temple excursion with the Mala Branch so we went up a little early so that we could see one of the Doctors that we have been seeing. The office is just a short distance from LarcoMar so we decided to go for lunch.

After lunch it was to the temple to meet up with the members. Mala only has three endowed males to assist with the vicarious baptisms and with me it made four but they require seven. Once before we were turned away with 16 youth that had traveled 3 hours to get there because we did not have the 7 priesthood holders. Fortunately we had been at dinner with the Temple President and one of his counselors at the Area office earlier in the week and I was able to present our situation to him. With notice they were able to accomodate us.

That evening we stopped at Jockey Plaza to eat and do a little window shopping. To our surprise it was the lighting of the Christmas Tree night which marks the offical beginning of Christmas in the Mall. The Strange coincidence was that we were there for the same night one year ago after we had been to the temple with the Canete Branch. A girl and mall! What can I say.

We have been visiting the familia Bariento for 16 months, we love them to pieces, but they never keep their commitments to us. Renee and Jenny with new baby(Walter) and 6 year old daughter Chantel.

Ya, I know this picture is a little random but if you have ever wondered what an octopus is worth in Peru now you know. About $4.60 USD. I found this in the new Plaza Vea grocery store in Chincha.

I mentioned the Christmas Activity in Imperial, this the gift wrapping factory that the Hermanas in the branch set up to beautify all the regalos (gifts). In all they had about 12 sisters and 5 brethren helping.

On the day of the Chocoltera we travelled to the pueblo. Here you see the people starting to gather. All of the homes in the village are made of the woven bamboo mats that you see here. In the green shirt and red hat is Eduardo Acevedo one of our members and part of the organizing committee.

Inside and out of the hot sun some of the children and parents waited for their names to be called and recieve their gifts. Like I said I wish I had more and better pictures but we were just too involved to take them.

We stopped by the Machas for a visit and the surprised me with a cake for my birhtday.

For my birthday on December 4th Juan Carlos and Adriana took us to this awesome restaurant on the outskirts of Nuevo Imperial. It is a working ranch where they produce everything eat including the cheese, yogurt, everything but the soda pop.

The grounds are meticuously maintained and have lawn games, shade tents, and all of the meat is cooked out doors on a barbque.

Vegatable salad, french fries, and beefsteak. They also raise sheep, pheasant, duck, goose, chancho, and chickens.

The whole operation was spotlessly clean, organized, and the service was the most attentive I have ever experienced, anywhere. They even had women that took the children when they became disinterested in eating. Really I have never experienced anything like it.

Between my birthday and our aniversary we had mission couples conference in Chincha. For our activity day we went on a boat tour of Islas Bellestas. Unfortunately Elder and Hermana Jones wandered off and did not get in the picture.

Elder Jones, President Manning, Yo, and Elder Reich were taking a little break and watching our wives spend money at the little shops on the boardwalk. We had a great seafood lunch, lots of sun, fresh air, and needed a nap.

Sunday morning Dec. 5th Shauna Labeau her mother Nan, and Taeote Tanuvasa came to visit and stayed the night. Taeote and Shauna were two of the missionaries that President Manning hand picked to watch over us when we first arrived in Canete. After we got caught up on all the news we hit the street to make visist, it was almost like old times, almost. We were so caught up in talking and doing that we did not take enough pictures.

This display of Paneton breads in in la bodega Valentina where we have our turkey sandwiches. Paneton is an intregal part of Christmas celebations here and when I tell people that we don't have Paneton back home they can't imagine how we have Christmas without it.

I don't know how to tell them that not having Paneton at Christmas is not the biggest travesty that we have back home. I can't imagine how I would explain that we have allowed governments and special interests to take the Christ out of Christmas and in the spirit of politcial incorrectness we have happy holidays, seasons greetings, merry winter solstice or that we can't have Christmas programs in our schools ect.

They would just say "Gringos, who can understand them."

Take care, have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,

Los Whitney, Gringos in Cañete