Monday, February 29, 2016

Family history in Andahuaylas and Abancay

 Feb. 22, 2016
    We headed to Andahuylas, Peru to meet with the missionaries for appointments with their new converts and investigators and reactivated members to set up their accounts and find family temple ordinances work.  That sounds pretty simple, but getting there is the hard part.  A helicopter could get there in about and hour, but driving there is another story.  It took 4 hours to get to Abancay and there you switch modes of transportation and have another 4 hours to Andahaylas.  It is a gorgeous ride but it is back and forth, back and forth up and down the sides of mountains with hairpin turns at each cross to the next level down or up.  We are lucky that the new road between Abancay and Andahuylas is finished.  It is well done with gutters and nice smooth roads.  The problem is that it rains and the sides of the mountains that were cut for the roads, start moving and mud and rock slides are common.  Our friends the Haslers said one time they counted 450 slow-down places on the 4 hour trip because you had to drive around fallen rocks.  They said that everyone just gets out of their cars and start moving the rocks if the road crew (that works 24/7 to keep the roads clear), are not there.  They said one time the rocks were falling and someone got out of the car and watched the rocks fall and yelled "go" when the rocks stopped, and "stop!" when they started to fall again.  It is a "dodge the rocks" game.  The people here just take things like that in stride.  They are so patient.
     On our way to Abancay we hired a car to get there.  It is faster and you can take breaks if you get car sick.  The problem was that our driver was sleepy and there were a couple of times we had to figure out how to keep him awake.  We even had him pull over and bought him a Coke he was grateful but we never saw him drink it.  In fact, we don't know what he did with it - we never saw it again.  Anyway, we were told by everyone that the car is the best way to go even though it costs a lot more, but after having that tired driver (I think that is unusual, they are usually good drivers, even if they do drive too fast sometimes) I decided we would try the bus next time.
I thought this stone work on this apartment building was cool.  See the animals made out of stone on this wall?

This is a nice church it even has a sprinkling system even though it rained every night we were there.  We like to meet the members at the Churches if we can.  We seem to get better internet there.  Peru's internet in general is hit and miss.

This family was so sweet.  She worked hard on her account.  The baby is 2 months old and his name is Dieter (in honor of Pres. Uchtdorf).  There was a boy in Abancay named Joseph Smith, he was 10 years-old and stayed right with his mother as we set up her account.  I think he is ready to have his own account he watched and learned so much.

This is my new friend Nancy.  We had so much fun together working on her family history.  She loved that we had the same name and wanted to get a picture of us together.  She was so excited about familysearch that she was asking us how she can become a family history consultant.  She is the pension for the missionaries.  Pensions are women who cook for the missionaries.  They do not get paid for it, it is just a way to serve.  That means that they have to shop and cook for the missionaries every day.  These men and women that do this for our missionaries are wonderful.  They work hard to keep our missionaries healthy and happy.

This is Felix a new investigator.  He did not want his picture taken but we like to put a picture in their My Family History Books.  I told him he was a handsome man and I liked his picture.  Later, I found out the rest of the story.  He was with his cousin and they are investigating the church together.  It seems that the scars on his face are because he was beaten by his father so badly that it has left scars and misshapen bones.  He is such a humble, sweet man and it is heart-breaking to hear his story.  His cousin is a handsome man and I am sure Felix would have had the same good looks, if  things had been different.  And yet,here he was trying to do family history work for his parents and grandparents.

We just love the missionaries!  These two really worked hard to help us and to love and care for the people they brought to us.
 So we went to Abancay after Andahuaylas in a combi (large van).  The guy next to us got car sick and threw up into a plastic bag and just threw the bag out the window.  We also played a little "dodge the rocks" but it wasn't too bad. When we decided to return after working in Abancay for 2 days we decided to take a large bus, we hadn't gotten sick on anything yet so we thought we would be fine.  When I got in the bus look what was hanging in the front.  That is a bunch of plastic bags used by the passengers for car sickness.  I wondered where the guy on the combi found the plastic bag, I guess all the combis and buses come fully equipped, they even have rubbing alcohol to wake up anyone who might faint after getting sick.  I guess they use it like smelling salts.
emergency bags

looking out the bus at the passengers getting ready to leave

So the lady in the blue jumped up as the bus was leaving saying " my friend, you have to wait for my friend she is in the bathroom!"  The bus was already 15 min late in leaving, so the bus driver told her he would not wait.  Then we saw the lady in the red running toward the bus with her little bag of chicken soup.  She had decided to get a last minute snack.  They just tear a hole in the bag and slurp up the soup.  We were getting nervous as the smell of that soup mingling with the other smells in the bus threatened our security about not getting car sick.

 I wish I could get a picture of the road we traveled.  The switchbacks are so tight.  Here are a couple of pictures I took out the window.  It really was a beautiful drive.  The bus took a lot longer than the car would have.  We stopped at a fruit stand at about half way.  The men all ran about 10 feet behind the bus to relieve themselves and the women just scattered to any bush they could find.  Then they came back grabbed a bag and bought some fruit to put in it.  We had no bags and another couple hours on the bus, I was worried.  The mother with 4 kids got out at that stop and she put them all one by one under a water faucet and bathed their heads and hands they came back on the bus all shiny clean.  We did have the guy behind us throwing up and that was after all the bags were gone, I didn't dare turn around and see how he was dealing with that problem.  The last hour of the ride a man got on and told us all about nutrition and how to fix your aliments.  He said he was not there sell anything but by the end everyone knew he was there to sell.  So there you are a captive audience to a snake oil salesman with the guy behind you throwing up, and you have to remind yourself that this is just another adventure in Peru.
Yesterday we had a fireside in this rented church.  We had a lot of interest but after trying everything we could not get internet except  on Lyles computer with help from a Bitel.  Everyone rescheduled to come later this week to the family history center where we can almost always get internet.  
 Oh, I didn't mention how after all the travel and the work to get set up and working with everyone's schedule, either the internet or familysearch kept crashing on us and we couldn't get everyone in to familysearch.  We just are grateful for the ones that we were able to help.

Now, there are days when we don't have appointments and days when I have not had internet at my apartment and we decided at the beginning of our mission that we would not watch TV while on our mission even when we are travelling and staying in hotels.  So what do we do when we want entertainment?  We set a chair in front of our bedroom window and watch what is going on outside.  It really is interesting, especially watching this building being built.  Those are buckets and pulleys that they use to get cement that is mixed on the sidewalk below up to the floors above.  Sometimes they just use the pulleys to get supplies up to the floor and mix the cement there.  Lyle who has worked with cement is fascinated in the whole process of building in Peru.  They are master builders and have been for centuries, but here they have to use their ingenuity to build because they don't have money.

We watch the workers mixing cement by hand, but actually this man is doing the brick work so this is his mortar, there is no rebar holding the bricks in place only the cement mortar.  And if this isn't entertaining  enough you could spend the day figuring out how the electric wiring works.  
If you want to get elected in Peru, all you need is a paintbrush and paint and paint any surface you want to.  You can also use a billboard.  With more than 15 parties running (no 2 party system here) that is a lot of graffiti and it is so sad because they cover up so many beautiful rock walls and buildings.

These are just other street views from our window.  We live in the nicer part of town.  We boil our water even though the water here is supposed to be treated.  No toilet paper in the toilets-you know the rules.  We are careful about where we eat and I put a little chlorine in the water when I wash my produce.  The average wage here is $250.00 a month.  A tour guide that speaks English can  make about $1000. to $1200. a month.  We are in a very different world here, we are learning a lot and are glad we can serve these humble, patient people.

Elder Holland visits/ Happy Birthday Lyle!

     On February 20, 2016 Elder Holland came to visit the Cusco Mission.  The whole mission came together for this special meeting just for the missionaries.  It is not common to have the whole mission gather but Pres. Harbertson obtained permission to do this.  The Sisters and Elders were so excited to see each other, you could just feel all the energy in the air. Some haven't seen their previous companions for over a year - you can see how happy they were to see each other again.  Then, not only did they get to see old companions, but they had the anticipation of seeing an Apostle of the Lord.
    I snapped some pictures while everyone was gathering.  Some missionaries came from far away and had to take a 1:00 am bus to get there.  Elder Tousi worked so hard to get everything scheduled. He was amazing, I know he had to be exhausted and he had to deal with the frustration of some last minute details, but he just kept smiling, never complaining.  Everyone gathered about two hours before the meeting was to start.  Someone climbed up on the building next to the Church and took a picture of everyone in the mission, I hope we get a copy of it. 
      These Elders and Sisters are so wonderful.  We get to work with them pretty closely at times as they set up our family history schedules and then they stay with us the whole time helping us with whatever we might need.  For me it is help with translation, my language is coming along but after I say a sentence or two just enough for everyone to think I can speak Spanish they start telling me all about their life and start asking questions and I have no idea what they are saying.  I just wave at one of the Elders or Sisters and they come running to help.  Sometimes they bring us a snack or offer to make a food run when we have been there for a long time.  The Zone leaders are good to advise us on our travel arrangements and food choices.  We also get a chance to get to know them personally.  One sweet Bolivian Sister missionary was asking me how she can find her family.  She is an orphan and was raised in an orphanage her whole life. She wasn't complaining, just wanting to be part of the excitement about family history and temple work.

The sisters are so loving and compassionate.  The Elders try, but the Sisters just seem to do it by instinct.  We have seen some of these sisters in some pretty difficult places and they always have a smile on their face.

Look at those happy faces.

    Finally, we were asked to come into the building in Districts and we were asked to sit quietly and read our scriptures, pray and ponder while we waited for Elder Holland to arrive.  After about an hour it was announced that the plane was late so we needed to wait a little longer.  There was a missionary playing the piano quietly and beautifully for 1 and 1/2 hours straight.  He was amazing, I talked with him later and he said his back got a little tired but he loves playing the piano.
     When Elder Holland arrived everything was quiet and we all stood up.  He came in and welcomed us then asked us to come up and tell us our names, where we were from and shake his hand.  Wow, that was amazing.  It was fun to watch the Elders come back to their seats, looking at the hand that touched an apostles hand.  Many had tears in their eyes.  It was a very reverent and spiritual experience for all of us.  He shook our hands and asked us if we were doing all right, we said "yes" then he asked where we are from and we said Woodland Hills, Utah, south of Provo.  He said "I know where that is".  He thanked us and told us there just isn't enough of us meaning Senior Missionaries.  At this time there are only two couples here in this mission, us and the Haslers.  
     When we were back in our seats, we started the meeting.  We heard from our Mission President,  Area Authority and Seventy and heard a beautiful song by a small group of Sisters and Elders.  I didn't know what everyone said because it was in Spanish (except Pres. Harbertson told a story in English that was translated into Spanish) but the spirit was there.
     Elder Holland is amazing.  I was so excited that he spoke in English.  He did a little Spanish (he lived in Chili for 2 years), but then he started talking in English and he just keep going with so much energy and enthusiasm, I don't know how his translator could keep up.  His translator was great and he just had to talk over sometimes because there were not a lot of pauses while Elder Holland was talking.
     Elder Holland told us that in the olden days the Apostles interviewed all the missionaries one on one, but that would be impossible now, so instead they shake hands with the missionaries.  He said he didn't really care about where we were from, mostly he just wanted to talk with us and look into our eyes.  He said that we were doing really well and that there were only a couple of missionaries that were struggling.  Then he started talking passionately about missions.  He said that he can trace every good thing that has happened in his life to his service as a missionary.  He came from a less active family, he had scholarships waiting for him, in those days they didn't leave until they were 20 and that would really interfere with his college plans, he didn't have very much support, etc... He had plenty of reasons not to go on a mission, but he did and it was hard, and it was soul stretching, and it required sacrifice but it was worth every sacrifice.  He told the missionaries that this mission is something you do not quit.  You are here to finish.  He explained that missions are meant to be hard but our pain and suffering is nothing compared with what the Savior did for us.  If we think in those terms, we can willfully offer our small amount of hardship in order to become as the Savior.  He said that he didn't know exactly why it has to be this way, but suffering and hardship produce character.  He also told us that there are 3 things you can't quit - your mission, your marriage and your temple covenants.  It is not even an option, so don't even think about it.
     There were many other things he taught us during the 1 and 1/2 hours he talked.  He plead with us with all the love he could express to stay faithful, and work hard.  The things that missionaries learn on their missions cannot be learned in other ways, they are things to build the rest of our lives on.
He told us that missionaries are Apostles with a small "a", we have the same calling as Elder Holland and the other Apostles. Missionaries are literal representatives of Jesus Christ.  It is an honor and responsibility to bear His name.    
     In conclusion, he gave all of us an Apostolic blessing "as if his hands were on our heads".  It was a beautiful blessing.
    The church is growing so fast that the opportunity we had to be at a mission conference with an Apostle will probably not happen again.  I am so, so grateful to have been here at this time and to be blessed by a living Apostle who is on the earth today. We have been so blessed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives.  It is such a privilege to serve our Savior in this way.  We love Him and have dedicated our lives to serving him all of our lives and beyond.  
    The interesting thing about the topic of this meeting is that it was just what our Mission President was concerned about (the missionaries staying active after they return home, which is a problem in Peru) and our Mission President had not talked to Elder Holland about it, yet the Lord knows what is needed and He inspires his Apostles to speak about it.

     Well, later that evening, after we went to pick up Elder Hasler who was in a 4 hour training meeting with the leaders within this mission area,( Bishops, Stake Leaders, District leaders and all the counselors and other leaders as well as the Mission Presidency and leaders.) They were being taught by Elder Holland who was still speaking English and having his amazing translator translate.  
Again he taught and blessed all those who were there and their families.  Many had traveled a long way to be there and it was a great sacrifice for their families.  He acknowledged the sacrifice of the family members of these wonderful men and he extended blessing to them also.
     Elder Hasler finally came out of the meeting, he had been at meetings all day and still wanted to go to dinner with us to celebrate Lyle's 60th birthday.  They led us to a great place where we had lamb, alpaca and steak served on a hot rock.  The rock kept the food hot and continued to cook it after it arrived.  Lyle was so happy because he is a slow eater and he could have his meat hot throughout the whole meal. Here are some pictures. It was so fun and as always the food was delicious.  Alpaca is really mild and lean, very yummy.

    Sunday, Feb. 21st.  Here is Lyle who is officially 60 now.  We again were blessed in that our Stake was randomly chosen as the Stake that Elder Holland spoke at.  What a great Birthday for Lyle to hear from an Apostle again. Two days in a row.  We could never get enough of hearing from an Apostle.
   In this meeting Elder Holland addressed the youth ages 12-22.  He said that if we were to give a tithing of our life to the Lord this would be the ages he would like us to tithe.  The Church has many concerns they have to address and yet they talk about the youth more than anything else.  He said he had "one foot on a banana peel and one foot in the grav"e and he is just not going to be here forever so we need youth that can rise to the occasion and lead this Church, the true and living Church of Christ.  He said if the youth can dedicate these years 12-22 to the Lord, the rest of their lives will fall into place. We have been so impressed with the youth here, so many are planning on going on missions and living such good lives.  They go to 6 am seminary (I remember doing that) and they are serious about it and about mission preparation.  He warned the youth of the betrayal of "friends".  In Dante's Divine Comedy it said that the lowest circle of Hell is reserved for friends that betray us.  It is so important for youth to choose good friends.  I can testify to that.

    Again, Elder Holland gave us an Apostolic blessing for everyone within the sound of his voice. He said, "God loves you and will bless you forever". He blessed the men to honor their priesthood and do more good with it.  He blessed the women to be examples of faith, hope and charity through out time and they will continue to influence the men in their lives for good. He blessed women to remind and help the men in their lives.  He blessed the children with safety from evil.  He blessed the marriages that they would be more loving and kind.  "Those without family we will stand by you".  He blessed us with whatever our needs are they will be granted.  What wonderful blessings for all of us.
   One of the things he blessed us with is health.  Remember when I posted the picture of the mother with her children who are living in a home with a dirt floor?  Well, we didn't have her membership number that day and have tried to get together again since, but her little boy ended up in the hospital very sick.  She was able to get him well enough to go to this meeting and immediately after the blessing by Elder Holland the boy was better.  They took him to the doctor the next day and the doctor was totally surprised and said the boy was completely healed.  The faith of a mother to bring her son to a conference where she didn't know he would give everyone the blessing of health and yet he did and her son was healed.  We will be getting together with her again soon to get her familysearch account and hopefully find ordinances for her family. That will be another faith building experience for her.

A picture of everyone from the Stake after the Conference enjoying each other's company.

The Church lawns are kept really nice and clean, it is a real treat for the children to play on it.

This is our Church building, the Stake Center and the Mission headquarters.  This is after the meeting.  Yes there is a tall fence around the building but most have big walls so it is nice that this building looks a little more open.  

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Puno , Juliaca, Sicuani and lots of work with the Sisters and Elders

Feb 7-13

Here are a few pictures I took before we left Puno where Carnaval was taking place.  Check out the costumes.  There were literally hundreds of groups and bands slowly dancing up the streets.  We had to use ear plugs to sleep at night.  It was fun to watch. 

These boys begged me to take their picture.  Aren't they handsome?

I could do a whole blog about the dogs here.  They are everywhere and seem to be just at home as anyone else.  They are every breed you can imagine.  Most live on the street, but I hear they have owners that feed them.  Actually they don't even need to be fed because there  is plenty of garbage they eat.  Garbage is bagged and put on the streets for the garbage man but the dogs get there first.  These dogs look like the have had a hard day.

 This is Juliaca outside our hotel.  We were crazy busy here..

 Chicken foot soup is served everywhere. It comes as part of the Chicken and fries meals they serve in about as many places as we serve hamburgers in the United States.  The soup is good but I am still not sure about the chicken foot.
Pizza lunch break while working on Family Histories, the Elders and Sisters thought they had gone to heaven.  They never get pizza.  

 These are just a few of the many people we worked with and helped with their family search.  We get all ages and capabilities.  We had several men who just took off with family search after just showing them a few things.  The young people catch  on very quickly.  There are a few people that we have to introduce to the keyboard, but they all are so grateful for the help especially those who get ordinances to take to the temple.

 We road a combie  back to Sicuani and I got to sit by these fun ladies.  They were knitting and talking and included me in their circle of friendship..  Look at their beautiful handiwork made out of alpaca wool.  They wanted me to take a picture of their work.  The people here are so warm and kind.
 This is a woodworking shop across from the Church.  They have a lot nice woodwork here.  They just take their work out on the street when there is not enough room in the shop.

This is a hotel we stay in when we go to Sicuani, I really love it here, it has such bright colors and so many interesting things to see and it is spotlessly clean. The town is smaller and it is a breath of fresh air after being the the big cities we visit. We stayed here our last couple of nights while we worked in Sicuani. Things were a little slower here but we still were able to help about 9 people a day. We headed back to Cusco on Saturday and went to stake conference on Sunday.  The following week, Feburary 15th through the 19th was slower because when we are in Cusco we only get evening appointments because that is when people are home.