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.|