Monday, July 20, 2015

Otra Semana en Ignacio Merino - Hna Parks hace intercambios en Sullana

Here is Christine's email today.  Mondays are exciting for the Parks family these days.  We look forward to these emails and enjoy them as much as FaceTime when she was at BYU.  Our family has been blessed by her service in Piura... we're a little more likely to see the good and spread the good because we know she is.

Hola hola familia y amigos!!

Great week here in Ignacio Merino! The scripture of the week that was kind of my mantra this week was DyC 33, verse 8. Open your mouths and they shall be filled, and you shall become even as nephi of old. When Prez Rowley gave me my first and last interview on day 1, he told me to be a Nephi in the mission. I love reading about Nephi in the Book of Mormon. He was faithful, diligent, and unwavering even despite some pretty hard afflictions. He did what the Lord commanded, sometimes not knowing why or not knowing how it would work out. That´s like me right now! But I KNOW that what I´m doing is true. So I keep on keeping on, just like Nephi! Our goal was to OPEN OUR MOUTHS this week. Our days consist of a lot of talking. People on the street, teaching lessons, etc. Sometimes it´s not easy to stop people on the street and talk to them but it´s really just conversations about Jesus Christ! We bear simple testimony on the daily of Jesus Christ and what he means for us. Since I´ve been here with Hna O we´ve contacted 332 people! Jimmer forever =) Cool, huh? 332 conversations about Jesus Christ and The Restoration of His gospel! Our zone has the goal to do 1200 contacts each week for 3 consecutive weeks and if we accomplish it, we get to go to Huancabamba! Apparently it´s really green, 3 hours away, etc. That will be a super fun P day! We´ve already completed 2 weeks, so one more! 

This week we had intercambios! I went to Sullana, about an hour away, for 24 hours with Hna Shill! She´s from AZ and the absolute sweetest! She´s almost done with the mission, and a total pro! I learned SO much from her. Especially about LOVING people. She didn´t start our contacts in the street with talking about US and who we are, but rather about THEM, their families, where they´re going, what Jesus Christ means to them, etc. She talked slowly, lovingly, and that´s something I´m going to apply! I tend to do everything too fast but I needed the reminder to slow down, and focus on the PEOPLE. Part of her area in Sullana is very very poor. We were walking a sparsely populated area when we came to a teeny house of a family she had contacted earlier in the week. The mom was outside washing her 1 year old in a tub with a little water. There was visibly something wrong on the Mom´s face from the moment we walked up. As we asked how she was doing, she burst into tears. She said she wished she weren´t alive, and where is God right now. She didn´t reveal all the details of what she was going through, but it was obvious that abuse was involved. She has three children. Her husband walked up during our conversation from far away, obviously drunk. We were afraid he was going to take the baby so Hna Shill picked him up while the mom yelled at her husband to leave and never come back. It was quite the experience. We held her as she cried and prayed with her. She invited us to come back another day and gave us each a fruit before we left- i forget what it´s called. I didn´t want to accept the fruit because she had nothing! But what an example to me of humility and love. I pray that she continues to listen to the missionaries! Sometimes it´s so hard seeing people struggle here financially or in their families. Ultimately, we´re here sharing a message that can increase their happiness and give them direction for their lives. It´s something they can take with them through the eternities, although it may not solve their temporal problems. 
Overall, such a great experience to learn from Hna Shill and the people of Sullana! 

 This week more than ever I felt really inadequate because of personal weakness.  Jesus Christ knows who I can become and because he´s felt all my weaknesses too, he knows exactly how to help me reach my potential! As soon as I wrote in my journal about my frustrations, prayed fervently, worked harder, and concentrated on my companion´s strengths and serving her, things got better! I´m going to study Charity this week and apply it! 

CARLOS- He is over 80 years old, the cutest little old person ever! haha. He was baptized last year, the only member in his family. He is the greatest example to me! He LOVES the sister missionaries. This week we asked him to come with us to teach a couple investigators and he was SO excited. His testimony of the gospel and willingness to serve is just so awesome. It is never too late to change your life! For Carlos, it was 80 years. He has now fully embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ and he will spend his remaining time on earth in the Lord´s work! I will make sure to get a picture with him this week or next. 

Angel y Dely- they are a family we have been teaching who are so very prepared to live the gospel of Jesus Christ! The only problem is that they aren´t married. That is the case with several families we are teaching. They believe in the principles of the gospel and are so ready to live the gospel!. We invited Dely to receive a priesthood blessing last week because she is pregnant and very, very sick every day. She received the blessing and it strengthened her faith and the faith of her husband! Such a cool experience for me to witness the power of the priesthood bless their life! 

Cultural notes!
When you walk into a house or into a room and again when you leave, you greet EVERYONE there. The people here are so warm and loving! 

They have started celebrating for their day of independence next week! Parades, flags, cute kids dressed up in uniforms, it´s pretty cool! 

I was ATTACKED by mosquitoes and spiders on Friday night. I didn´t have a single bite before then, I have no idea why Friday night was all of a sudden drink Hna parks´ blood night. I´´m gonna bathe in repellent from now on.

Love you all, have an amazing week!!
Remember to share your testimony about Jesus Christ with someone this week. Family, friend, stranger. It can be a simple conversation! 

Hermana Parks 

Ignacio Merino Area

You guys, this week I´ll turn a month old as a missionary! Craaaazy. Now just 17 more of those, haha! 

Life is great! We had some super cool experiences this week, but first...the most embarrassing experience of my LIFE. 

You ready for this?

Okay so it´s Thursday night. We got back to the room at 830 sandy and sweaty and tired, like usual :), and did our planning session. Afterwards I seriously could not keep my eyes open so I told Hna O that I was going to bed...9:30. Apparently she followed suit directly after. Then, in what felt like the middle of the night, we hear banging and keys trying to get in our front door...we were definitely a little frightened. We walked out of our room to the front door and heard a group of voices outside the door including girls so we thought it must be people we know...I checked my watch and it was actually 11:30. We hesitantly opened the door and there in our entryway is THE BISHOP, THE ELDERS INCLUDING OUR DISTRICT LEADER, the Hermanas that live below us, the Gomez family (our pensionista), and the Gomez´ exchange students. We were literally so confused and then they told us that they´ve been looking for us for 2 hours!!!! Apparently the Hermanas that live below us had seen our lights off in our window at 945 and assumed that we hadn´t returned they called our DL because it´s a strict rule that we have to be inside by 9 at the latest and that´s if we´re teaching a lesson that goes past 830. Our DL called our phone several times (which was in the other room and I seriously have no idea how we didn´t hear it!) and told the hermanas to knock on our door and yell our names. WE DIDN-T WAKE UP: So our DL called the President and let him know that we hadn´t returned. The President told him to call the Bishop and all the leadership in the ward to start searching for us and gave the Elders permission to leave and look as well! The Bishop stopped his interviews and the young adults stopped their activity at the chapel to start looking for us! ´Apparently there were about 4 cars and 3 moto taxis filled with people scouring our area looking for us. They stopped at members homes and our investigators houses to ask if they´d seen us during the day! It scared everyone!! They were praying and Hna Guardia, who lives below us was crying. They were imagining the worst. Finally the bishop decided to break into our room to see if there was any more information or if by chance we were sleeping before they called the police. Then we open the door in our pajamas and they were so relieved, mad, exasperated, etc. OH MAN. Hna O and I died of embarrassment. We spent the next 2 days apologizing to everyone!! Literally the entire ward knew about it and was asking us for days, haha. Talk about making a first impression! 
Lessons learned. ALWAYS sleep with the phone in the room and a LOT of people love us! So that was our crazy story for the week! 

Cool experience this week that I´m going to kind of quote from my journal: Hermano A. But first some context that has nothing to do with Hno A.
 I realized this week that I take comfort in numbers. For example, these 2 weeks in the field I´ve loved zone conferences and seeing our district and other people. It gives me confidence and comfort that there are so many other missionaries in this with us, even though it´s hard sometimes. I draw strength from their examples, also thinking about all my friends in the field around the world! But then this week the thought came to me (and I´m sure it was the Spirit): Hna Parks, if you were the only one, would you still do it? 
That question was on my mind all day but I didn´t have time to address it because we were so busy out teaching lessons. Then, Hermano A came along. He´s a less active member who was baptized in 2013. We visited him my first day in the field and he expressed his lack of faith in the BoM. We shared Alma 32:21 and Moroni 10:4,5 and had him commit to pray with a sincere heart, etc. Next lesson, (we brought Junior, a 23 year old RM, convert as of 5 years) with us, Hno A expressed even more doubt. He DID read the BoM but he had literally written pages of notes of things he doubted. Details like cities, the characters, things that he didn´t believe were realistic, etc.  He basically started throwing out his doubts from the moment we stepped in the door. It got semi contentious for sure. He was expecting us to deliver a counter response to all his doubts. Junior did a really good job at reasoning with him. Basically Hno A was trying to tear apart the book that we teach from every single day. The one we carry in our hands at all times, per mission rule! You´d expect that I´d feel despondent and unsure how to respond, but I felt the Spirit SO strongly during that lesson. Since there was nothing else we could do, Hna O and I testified of the BoM. I testified that it´s not just part of the gospel, it´s the keystone of our religion. I testified, as I felt a burning inside me, that if I was the ONLY member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I would still know it´s true and I would still be here on a mission. I don´t know if I´ve ever been more sure in my entire life. When we left that night, my testimony was stronger than it had been when we walked in. I don´t know if Hno A will ever decide to return to the gospel, but I´m so thankful for that experience because it fortified my faith, and my testimony of the calling I have. I LOVE  the Book of Mormon. It is the BEST as missionaries to be able to study it each morning personally and as a companionship. I know beyond any doubt that it contains the fullness of the gospel and the Plan our Father in Heaven has designed for His children. I will never, ever, ever deny of its reality and the truthfulness it contains. So to answer the question that the Spirit posed to me: If I was the only one, YES I would still be here. I´m here because this happiness and testimony inside me is bigger than myself! I encourage all my dear friends and family at home to read from the BoM every. single. day! 

Other people! 
Gerardo: He has a baptismal date for 1 August and he came to church this week and loved it! Hna Roper first started teaching him last year! She´s the one I was talking to on facebook before I came out here! SO COOL. Such a small world! My first area was her last area! You guys should message her via my facebook and tell her that Gerardo is progressing so well and really excited for his baptism! 

Yolanda: I attached a picture on another email. She is this hilarious Chinese-Peruvian lady who´s less active! She LOVES the sister missionaries. We went over to her home this week to do some service. We painted a few of her walls this distasteful lime color that she picked out, haha! She´s hilarious. She lives with her 3 sons. It was super fun to do some service to change things up! 

We taught a recent convert (as of June 27) this week about temples and family history. It was one of my favorite lessons of the week! Victor´s mom died when he was 8 so it was super cool to teach about the ordinances we can do in the temple to grow closer to our families on the other side of the veil! I love and miss the temple! It´s such a bummer to have to wait another 17 months to go again! The temple is one of my favorite parts of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I wish we could teach every investigator about the temple right off the bat!! But we have to take it poco a poco :)

Some random cultural notes: EVERYONE here says Ya. The most common phrase I hear every day is Ya. Ya, hermanita, ya. It´s so funny how every culture has their idiosyncrasies! 
I think I´ve already reached a billion grains of rice in these 2 weeks. Every meal, peeps! 
Tons of stray, sick dogs. It´s really sad. Reminds me of Gmala. 
Every day we ride in moto taxis! Itr´s this 3 wheeled motorcycle taxi thing that´s open. The drivers always try to charge us too much since I´m american but I´ve gotten pretty good at negotiation, haha. 
This week we were teaching a lesson in the park to a 14 year old investigator, Alonso, and suddenly a random lady walks up and asks us to help her find her kimono dragon-lizard thing. It had crawled through the church gates and wouldn´t come out! Seriously huge!! Who in the world would have that as a pet??? There wasn´t really anything we could do because we don´t have the keys to the gates, so she just sat out there waiting for it to come out, haha. Seriously creepy. I wasn´t getting anywhere near that thing. 

GUYS IT RAINED THIS WEEK. Craaazy! Everyone here was scared because when it rains the ground can´t absorb it so their houses will flood! Luckily it was just a little bit. Kind of a little taste of home :) 

Overall, life is really, really good. Emotionally I wouldn´t say I´m 100% yet, but way better than last week. When I´m busy, I´m happy! Every day I get more and more excited being a part of this work. When I´m walking these streets, I feel the love of my Heavenly Father and I feel your love and prayers! Thank you thank you thank you all for writing me! I´m sorry that I never have time to reply but I LOVE reading the letters throughout the week! Keep em´coming!

Someone tell Kirstie CONGRATS on her mission call for me!! So So So excited for her! Which MTC?

Also, can you guys send me a talk by Elder Holland? iT´s called Teach teh Atonement from an MTC devotional in 2000. I read it in the MTC and it´s seriously possibly the greatest talk given about missioanry work ever. I wanna read it again! 

Love you all, have a great week!!!!

Hermana Parks

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Week 3: in Piura


Oh my goodness, you have no idea how nice it is to finally hear from you after 2 weeks! To be honest, I`ve been really homesick this past week but I won`t go into too much detail or I`ll start bawling in the middle of this crowded internet cafe, haha. 

Once again, literally no time, but I just copied and pasted all your emails onto a document to print so that I can read them all this week and then reply next week! I might have time to reply to a few after I write this email.  Ps we get one hour in the field for writing, but we also have to write our weekly letter to the President during that time. 

So when I got set apart as a missionary, I thought that I was totally official. Then we arrived at the CCM and got nametags, and THAT was the real deal. Then we got to the actual field where actual missionary work happens and let me tell ya: THIS IS THE REAL DEAL. 

I`m exhausted and there is literally so much to say so I`ll try to fit everything in: 

AREA: I`m in the Algarrobos zone, Ignacio Merino area. I don`t really know where it is in relation to the rest of Piura, haha, but they say we`re about 45 minutes from the coast. Honestly I`ve been so busy I haven`t even looked at a map. Yàll can google map it, haha. 

MY COMP: Hermana O from Cochabamba Bolivia, 22 years old, been in the mission for 6 months. She`s super sweet and super obedient and we work really well together. But, initially, I was a little hard on her and frustrated because she is kind of timid. I don`t know how to best describe it but it`s kind of a mixture of quiet, slow, shy. I was slightly frustrated because I wanted/needed her to be a leader since I`m a rookie! But I`ve since gotten over myself and I am SO grateful for her. She`s very different than me, but it works out for the best. 

So after our orientation on the first day, we headed straight to our apartment at like 4 or 5pm, dropped my stuff off, and left to go teach 3 lessons, ha! I literally haven`t even unpacked yet and it`s been a week. The following morning, on the second day, I don`t know what was up but I was extremely emotionally fragile. I cried in the shower, I cried getting ready, and I held it together during personal study until it was comp study and we talked about what we studied in personal and I just broke down. I cried that whole morning until we left the house. My comp probably thought I was super unstable, haha. I don`t know how best to explain it, but I think mostly it was loneliness. In the CCM you`re surrounded by friends and your district 24/7. Getting to the field I realized that I`m going to be living with ONE person for the next THREE months, at least until I move areas or change companions. It took me almost the whole week to feel like Hna O and I can be friends. It was just very hard to relate to her in the beginning and I felt completely alone. I missed Hna S and my comp from the CCM SO much. I couldn`t think about or talk about family without choking up. In my mind I couldn`t see how I`d be able to find happiness here. Once we left the house that day, things improved A LOT. When I`m busy, I`m fine. Truly. I have surprised myself with being able to teach and contact people in the street without any fear thus far. It`s the still moments when I get emotional and focus on the hard aspects of this work. I don`t know why, but mornings are hard. I have prayed more fervently than I ever have in my life here. Mornings have been the brink of tears every time, but then at night when we return to the room, I`m so happy. So dirty and sandy, so sweaty, so tired, but so happy. As I`ve gotten to know our investigators and the members, I`ve started to love these people. It`s turned from survival mode into seeing myself doing this for the next 18 months with happiness and fulfillment. 

D&C 78:17-18 helped me SO much on day 2 and I`ve found so many others that have carried me along this week. The Lord is looking out for me for sure. Also Hermana Stringham was my angel this week. (I emailed her before the mission, she`s a sister leader in Tumbes and goes home next month, from Utah) We had a zone meeting/conf whatever you call iton Saturday and for the first time I got to meet other missionaries in our area. Hna Mitchell, who`s in my district said she had a note for me from Hermana Stringham! I don`t even know how Hna Stringham knew what day I was getting there or where I`d be!! She basically asked me how I was surviving and told me that her first month was really hard so don`t give up and Heavenly Father is so proud of me. I started crying right there. I needed that so much. For some reason so far it`s more difficult talking about my feelings with my companion or the sisters that live below us (they aren`t in our area) because they don`t speak english and they`ve all been in the mission a while. So anyways, it`s been the small things that have carried me through this week. 

So our daily routine: 6:30 running in the parque de avion near our apartment, showering in our freezing shower that`s actually really nice when it`s hot!, getting ready, then 8-11 is personal study, comp study, and additional study (additional is for the first 12 weeks using a training booklet we got -- it has helped me a lot with the emotional side of this transition), 11-1 we´re out working, WALKING and walking, teaching, contacting, then at 1 we have lunch with our pensionista (Food is so good here but rice for DAYS. I haven`t seen any beans here and they don`t even know what tortillas area, haha. It`s different than I expected. Soup every day. Then the dish with rice and usually chicken. Really delicious flavors. We always have some kind of fruit in dessert form. They also have this weird fruit called a granadia that looks like fish eggs inside and I can`t decide if I like it , haha, look it up. We aren`t allowed to eat strawberries at all, so that`s depressing, haha. For breakfast I just have cereal and then we don`t actually eat dinner usually because we`re out working. But our pensionista feeds us a huge meal and we just have a snack at like 9pm.) Anyways, 2pm is language study where I help Hna O learn English and then I usually do some Spanish grammar things. Then 3-9 is out working! 9pm is comp planning. Then an hour of free time before bed. Busy, busy, busy. I look forward to teaching lessons during the day SO MUCH because that means we can sit down for a while, haha. 

We have/had one investigator with a baptismal date but he DIDN`T COME TO CHURCH. This is so far the story of our lives. 

Weather: actually not that bad. I mean, we sweat all the time but there have also been a decent amount of cloud cover lately and a light breeze. I still wear sunscreen every day. The nights are actually really nice. We just sleep with sheets and it``s perfect. But it`s winter and Hna O said that this is nothing as far as heat goes, ha! 

Everyone, seriously everyone compliments me on my Spanish. Mom and Dad, I am SO grateful for you guys, especially Mom for persevering to teach us!! It has been the biggest blessing. I understand 100% of everything people say and it`s just a matter of some grammar errors when I speak. Improving every day. 


From the President: When you guys send me packages it has to be through SERPOST. It`s the same address that`s on my blog but you HAVE to put the President`s full name and then my name. It won`t get here if you don`t use serpost. Also no mail in the CCM so sorry to Bro Minor because I know he sent me a letter!

Camera charger update: I`m gonna buy one


Hna Parks

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Christine arrived in Piura yesterday.  We received a brief note from her describing her trip and the blazing hot weather.  Here is a photo of her with her companera (we don't know a name, area, etc. yet).  Also shown are President and Sister Rowley, who finished their mission yesterday.  President and Sister Rasmussen (from Irvine, CA) arrived in Piura today.  Good times!