Sunday, August 23, 2015

Ignacio Merino week 7

Intercambios this week...
The mission is definitely not rainbows and butterflies, but it is such a unique and humbling experience and I am so grateful for all that I have learned! 

For the divisions, there was a catch. We´d be spending 2-8pm on Tuesday with GREENIES. Like brand new fresh off the MTC barely speak Spanish greenies. BUT, it was a super cool experience. I got to see Hermanas Richan, Sandison, and Bryce who I was instagram friends with before the mission! They are all super sweet. My hermana nueva for the day was Hna Buchanan! She´s from Wyoming and was ready and excited for her first day in the field! We had a great list of appointments lined up, and then every. single. one. fell through. I was like you are seriously kidding me. I was praying and praying that Hna Buchanan would have at least one teaching opportunity! Finally, I thought of Lucia y Carlos. They are contacts from Hna O and Hna Crowder back in June. We taught Lucia twice about a month ago but then she had her baby and was in the hospital for a long time with complications, so we had passed by several times with no success. It kind of seemed like a waste even putting them on our schedules because it was impossible to find them available in their house. But, nonetheless, Hna Buchanan and I passed by. And I am so glad we did! The Spirit definitely guided us. Lucia y Carlos were just about to MOVE HOUSES so if we hadn´t passed by, we probably would´ve lost them forever! We taught their family The Plan of Salvation and Carlos expressed his desire and search over many years to find a path and a religion for his family. Investigators of gold I tell you. They have 5 kids. Carlos lived in the US for 22 years as a manager of migrant workers, so he speaks English too! (Which was pretty ironic because Hna B´s first experience teaching in the field was to a bilingual family, haha!) They are the sweetest, and I felt the Spirit so strongly that day. I offered for Hna O and I to stop by on Thursday and help them move! So on Thursday Hna O and I spent the morning carrying mattresses and boxes, etc across this sand field to their new house, not too far away. We got to know their oldest daughters, Adela who´s almost 12 and Miracle who´s 13, really well! Then they fed us lunch and asked us to come back next week! I love them so so much and I´m so excited to continue teaching them! 

ZONE CONF THIS WEEK-- Huge changes in our mission. From now on, all the missionaries in our mission are going to TOCAR PUERTAS (knock on doors) from 6-8pm. Every day. No scheduled appointments within those hours. This is a huge change! Here´s why--
1. Hna O and I have never knocked on doors. I think that the missionaries in our area just never had the habit of doing it. I asked her my first week if that´s something we do and she said that it wasn´t effective. Turns out we were kind of mistaken. Granted, street contacting is super successful in our area. But it´s successful in terms of getting names and addresses, but not necessarily finding families and prepared individuals. Like I said last week, it was overwhelming having so many names and not knowing who to visit, as well as dealing with false directions and addresses from all parts of our area. Now, we have the opportunity to teach people on the spot because they´re in their homes, and normally families are all together between 6-8pm! We can also get to know our area better and proselyte in areas where we´ve only walked a few times. 
2. We´re realigning our focus. As missionaries, sometimes we waste our time on investigators that just aren´t progressing or less actives who refuse to come back to church for various reasons. This week we cleaned out our investigators. It was really bittersweet, especially some that we feel especially close to, but ultimately it´s for the best. We need to find those truly prepared, and sometimes that means having the courage to let people go. We can only invite others to come unto Christ, they have their agency to act! I´m so excited to find new, prepared investigators! 
3. We´´re going to ask for references between 8-930pm from members, less actives, and recent converts. This means less personal time in the evening. Previously, we could be in our rooms at 8:30 but now it´s 9:30. That means planning until 10 and with phone calls and filling out registros, we´ll have less personal time. BUT we have a lot of faith in this new schedule and we´re confident that we´ll be able to make time. But my poor journal is suffering a little :)

But we had the COOLEST experience our first night knocking on doors. I don´t have time to relate the experience, but I will next week! It was the first lesson I have been in tears and felt SO much love for a new investigator.

Random notes--
We literally had a chicken foot in our soup this week. Apparently it´s a delicacy.
Also a moto taxi we were riding got stuck in the sand and we had to push it out, haha.Desertprobs.

Gah, so much more to say but no time!

I love you all! Have a great week! Hike a mountain for me :)
Hermana Parks

Monday, August 10, 2015

Ignacio Merino, continuado...

Photos from today:

One down, 11 to go! Time is flying and I think that this week I loved being a missionary more than all the other weeks! I just felt most emotionally happy with this life I live, and excited for each new day! 

First I´ll answer Dad´s questions since the general population might wanna know some of these things, too-

1. Lessons with members present makes ALL the difference. Unfortunately, it isn´t super easy here. When we ask members to accompany us, we choose investigators who are going to for sure be in their house for the appointment. Once, we had a member with us and went to 10 investigator´s homes over 2 hours and NO ONE was home or available. So yeah. We try to have 1-2 lessons with members each day, as a goal. The members of our ward are super great in helping out with the work. 

2. 28 de julio was super fun, Hna Gomez made us a huge lunch for us and the whole family, they were all wearing their Peru polos, and there were tons of flags in the street and it was a great conversation starter for contacting! 

3. The Peruvian accent is for sure different but I don´t know if I can explain it, haha! They have this intonation when they speak. Also a lot of people speak really fast. I can notice a difference between Hna O and the average Peruvian even though Bolivia isn´t that far away.

4. Personal study - President Rowley on day 1 counseled us to study the BoM for at least 20 mins of our hour, and PME for at least 20 mins. I usually do 30 mins of BoM and then we always study for someone specifially, so I use PME as I study for that person and form a lesson plan. My only complaint about the mission is that we only have 1 hour for personal study! I want 5, haha. The time seriously flies. I loved the scrpitures before the mission, but now I LOVE the scriptures. I look forward to study every single day and I´ve received so much personal revelation and inspiration! 

5. The typical LDS family here..hmm.. they actually don´t have a ton of kids. Besides the family with 7 kids, the average is probably 3 or 4. On the other hand, unlike the US, nonmember families sometimes have like 5-6 kids! And a billion grandkids. And all 72 of them live in the same house, haha. 

6. We haven´t eaten in a cafe or restaurant yet. P days we usually eat lunch in the Tottus plaza with other missionaries which has Burger King, Pizza Hut, all that unhealthy stuff, haha. Something other than rice. 

7. Language study- I don´t know if this is all Spanish missions, or maybe ours especially emphasizes this, but it´s not an option for the Latinos to learn English. They have to, haha. Obviously they aren´t going to be fluent even after 2 years but Hna O actually knows a lot! The Latinos have English grammar and workbooks that has tests to measure their progress. Mostly she needs practice talking so we try to have conversations and practice specific things like past tense. For Spanish, I have a grammar book from the CCM and sometimes I read conference talks in SPansh to expand my vocab. 

8. Experiences that prepped me for the mission-
Anything that had a leadership or teaching opportunity. For example, being a JC at girls camp and teaching Relief Society at BYU! Also just having experienced other cultures for service and learning Spanish in Gmala and the Dominican. Also SEMINARY. Especially scripture mastery. And perhaps most importantly personal scripture study. All of those experiences are part of my foundation.

9. Piano - yep, almost every Sunday for the ward. And every day in the CCM, haha. They just have a keyboard in our ward. The wardmission leader is the other person who plays, but his wife lost her baby (7 months along) a few weeks ago, so he has missed a lot of Sundays. 

10. The tuk tuk drivers are pretty chill. Sometimes we´ll give them a pass along card or invite them to church as they drop us off and they´ll say oh yeah missionaries already gave me one of these, haha. They know the missionaries really well because we´re always getting rides. 

11. Ways that my testimony has grown the most.. well that´s a hard one, haha! I feel like my testimony has grown in so many ways. Probably primarily in the principles of the gospel! You really never know what you know until you teach it. Each time I testify of a principle, it is solidified in my heart! Especially The Restoration and Plan of Salvation. Also I have never felt the importance of daily prayer and scripture study as much as I do  now. My prayers are longer, more sincere, I feel closer to my Heavenly Father, and my scripture study is focused on the truths that can bless the people here, not just me personally! It´s the small and simple things, but they bring to pass GREAT things. 

Before I forget to tell you guys, ELDER BEDNAR IS COMING TO OUR MISSION. We are stoked out of our minds. I think it´s the 27 of August or something like that. How lucky are we?

Okay a few experiences this week-

We try to visit a member family once a week to ask for references or plan a family night in their home with a nonmember, investigator, etc. This week we visited Hna Arronategui. She told us her conversion story, which is incredible. To summarize- She found the gospel during her early 20´s at asuper rough time in her life when she had several questions of the soul. The Elders answered all her questions using the Bible. She doesn´t have a lot of friends here so we left without a reference but it was completely a miracle what happened next. We left to teach an hermano Crol, he´s in his 20´s, in a wheelchair and was super interested the first week or two teaching him. He prayed to know if Joseph Smith was a prophet and felt peace. But during the lesson, he basically told us sorry but he feels like he´s found all he needs from his Christian church and the Bible. Initially we were thinking that was it. We can only invite others to come unto Christ, they have their agency. But he has also expressed to us many questions of the soul he has about hte plan of salvation. Because we had just talked to Hna Arronategui, it came to us that we could use the Bible to give a lesson on the Plan of Salvation and build off the faith Crol already has in the scriptures. So we´re going to return this week and teach him with that strategy. If we hadn´t visited Hna Arronategui, we would´ve let him go. I´m so grateful for the Spirit guiding us that day! 

This week during our weekly planning, Friday 10-1, I was stressed out of my mind about our contacts.The Peruvian people are so receptive, and sometimes that´s the problem. We had a billion names and addresses in our agenda from this transfer of people we contacted in the street who agreed to have us visit them. I was stressing that we wouldn´t be able to find the people on the list who are truly prepared to hear our message because it´s impossible to visit them all! But through the guidance of the Spirit we figured out a way to organize all our old contacts, by area and by priority. From now on, at the end of each day, we´re going to decide which contacts we are going to visit that same week. There are for sure contacts where we feel the Spirit strongly, and those are the people that we need to visit as soon as possible after contacting. Anyways, after creating a plan, we found 5 new investigators within 2 days, 6 total for this week! A principle I´ve learned is that if we have a plan, The Lord will make up the rest and consecrate our performance (2 Nephi 32- 8,9) If we don´t plan, especially in lessons, we are less likely to have the Spirit with us.

Favorie food here thus far- Papas a la Huancaina. Google it. Also Alfajores, it´s a dessert. 

No more time! I love being a missionary, I love these people, and they are so important to me! It´s really not my own love or care for them, it´s the Savior´s. I feel so blessed to represent Him for these 18 months. 

Hermana Parks

Monday, August 3, 2015

Another update from the Ignacio Merino area

This is today's message from Christine in Peru.  Looks like the girl from Oregon got to see some green mountains for the first time in a couple months...

You guys, today was the COOLEST. Our zone left at 3am this morning to drive 3 hours to Canchaque, waaaay up in the mountains! Perks of living in the desert include massive appreciation for trees and greenery! Once we got to Canchaque we took two pick-up trucks to Pampa Minas, a teeny pueblito even higher up in the mountains. The Elders stood in the back of the pickup and we sisters were inside, it was quite the ride! Then we hiked for about 3 hours and saw a few waterfalls and passed farmland on the hillsides that reminded me of Guatemala! So worth waking up early, and a sweet reward for our hard work contacting these past few weeks! So never fear future Piura missionaries, it´s not ALL desert, haha. 

I don´t have a ton of time left, but I tried to send more pictures to compensate! 

This week flew by! We had a service project Tuesday morning, 5 Week Reunion with my MTC group at the mission house thursday, ward activity Friday morning, and district meeting Saturday! It made the week seem super duper fast.

Service- we cleaned the street with la familia Gomez, our pensionista family who live on the 1st floor and we live on the 4th. They are seriously the best! They have three kids, one married and 2 in their early 20´s. They are converts to the church and love helping us out teaching lessons! Our street is super cute and clean now, which is ironic because you walk around the corner and it´s back to sand-trash chaos, haha. 

Mitchael- he´s progressing greatly! This week we taught him the Plan of Salvation at the church with the Bishop! I´m so glad we had the Bishop there, he explained The Fall super clearly and the Spirit was super strong. I read this week in a talk by Holland that when we´re teaching people the Plan of Salvation, all we´re really doing is bringing back to their remembrance the same plan that they learned in the premortal life! Pretty cool. As the weeks go on, and the more I teach the Plan of Salvation and also Lesson 1, the more I LOVE and am so grateful for my family! Families are so central to this life. I also love the talk Elder Perry gave last conference on families. 

Friday we had a ward-stake activity. Youth from several areas in Piura came to our chapel, we divided up into groups, and went to visit less actives! I was paired with a 15 year old girl, Aracsana, from Tumbo Grande. For the first time, I was the for reals leader! Weird not having Hermana Orellana by my side to negotiate with the mototaxi, find directions, and give a lesson! But a really cool experience. We taught a 17 year old girl who´s less active and honestly, I love teaching youth because I´m practically the same age and I feel like I can relate to them opposed to, for example, teaching an adult couple who have been living together for years (not married) the Law of Chastity, haha. That happened this week too. 

Sunday we ate with a member family, the Albuquerques. They have 7 kids, 3 recently returned missionaries, and made us Brazilian food! Feijuada and coos coos. Their whole family are converts as of 5 years. Their story is so, so cool. The majority of members that we eat with, (Saturdays and Sundays for lunch) are converts and I love listening to their stories. They are all super willing and happy to help us out with missionary work because it´s had such a huge impact on their lives! 

Some random notes-

- I love sunrises here. We are the luckiest to live on the 4th floor and every morning is spectacular out the window.
- This week we had several reverse contacts, aka people contacting US, haha. One man pulled over in his car and asked if we were missionaries and said that he´s having difficulty interpreting the Bible and wants to know if we can help him. We´re gonna visit their family this week! Another woman in a panaderia stopped us as we were walking out the door and started asking us questions and wants us to visit her. I love it when that happens, haha, makes our job easy! 
- Also, nothing beats a few warm breads from the tiny panaderias here for 50 centavos, that´s like 15 cents in the US. 

Love you all, have a great week! 
Hermana Parks

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Update from Ignacio Merino Area

Hna Parks sent us a fun email.  She is adjusting to Peru, speaking more Spanish, and learning a lot from her trainer Hna Orellana.  We love Mondays!  I've added a few photos as well.

--Christine's dad

Buenas tardes, familia y amigos!!

Time CRAWLED when I first got here, but now looking back it seems like 4 weeks flew by! Crazy. 

I´ll start by answering Dad´s questions before I forget-

- 6 weeks between transfers, we have one exchange per transfer
- Our ward has about 80 members..or at least that´s what I counted on Sunday, of course there are several more who aren´t active. Our chapel is pretty teeny, I´ll try to send a picture! 
- I´ve never really felt unsafe. There are parts of our area that where we don´t go past dark, about 630pm, because there are hardly any lights. Where we live is definitely safe. 
- No sicknesses thus far! They bring us clean water in huge jugs every few weeks and as long as we drink and cook with that, we´re good!
- President and Sister Rasmussen are AWESOME. We had a multizone conference with them a couple weeks ago and then we had interviews this past week! They are from Irvine, President was one of the first missionaries in the Dominican Rep! Pretty cool. He was stake president in Irvine for several years before this. They´re actually pretty young, their youngest daughter is serving a mission in Chiclayo right now! Overall super pilas, they will be fantastic for our mission! And Sister Rasmussen just has to learn spanish, haha!
- I drink SO much water. It´s just so hot. I´m pretty good about staying hydrated.
- I haven´t had cui yet. Mission goals. But also slightly terrified. 
- The only regret I have is one pair of shoes I brought that are just flats, no strap across. I need the strap because we walk SO much, in a lot of sand.
- You guys have to pick extra pears for me! That is something I miss! 
- And heck yes, BYU football highlights in detail please!

Okay so great week here in Ignacio Merino! Well, at times it was a pretty tough week, actually. We worked super super hard, but there were a couple days when NO ONE was home and all our appointments and backup plans fell through. 

During my interview with President Rasmussen he told me to look for the Lord´s hand each week in all we do. Sometimes we´re so busy we fail to recognize that each of our successes happen because HE has led us to the people who are ready to hear this message! 

So here´s how I´ve seen The Lord´s hand this week:

Monday- we had a family night with a Rescatada family. (rescued) This means that they were inactive for a long period of time but the missionaries taught them all the lessons again and they started attending church regularly and had an interview with the bishop! The Bautista family. Norma is a single mother to Alexia, 10, who reminds me of Rachel :)  Alexia is so sweet, she wanted to teach a lesson on Tithing, and she did a great job! Afterwards I taught them a game I learned at BYU thanks to my FHE group and Alexia and I played with her volleyball. I feel like I´m starting to form relationships with these families and the kids, which is such a blessing! 

Tuesday- We taught Angel y Dely! They have been taking the discussions for a while now, so were praying to be able to find out what they´re lacking before baptism. They both have incredible faith and always have awesome insights during our lessons. Hna O and I felt like we needed to teach The Restoration again. We read part of JS History with them, which was a great experience because they got to hear Joseph Smith´s own words telling the story of The Restoration. I think it really helped them to realize why they´ve kept listening to the missionaries all this time, and remember that The Restoration is the foundation of everything we teach. This week we´re going to have a family night with them with another family in the ward. Really all they lack is ASISTENCIA a la iglesia and marriage. Which is actually kind of a lot, haha. We´re praying that they will continue to progress!

Wednesday- Mitchael Carmona! He is one of Yolanda´s sons. 32, lawyer, isn´t a member. We first met him while doing that service project for Yolanda and eating lunch with their family. I think that he´s grateful for us for befriending Yolanda since she´s separated from her husband and works from home, kind of lonely at times. So he expressed interest in taking the discussions and of course we were ecstatic! This week we invited him to be baptized and he accepted! He´s one of those people who you wonder why they aren´t already a member! He is super hard working and respectful, and has great values and goals for his life. He is going to be such a great addition to the ward! Yay for progressing investigators!

Thursday- Missionary work two by two is SUCH a blessing and definitely designed by God. I learned so much from Hermana O this week and I´m super super grateful that she´s my companion. She is always in tune with The Spirit and especially diligent in our studies and planning for investigators. On Thursday, for some reason, I was super homesick! Sometimes I have the terrible, terrible thought that I will lose a member of my family while I´m out here. I don´t know why that thought even came to my mind, but I was on the brink of tears that morning. But then during companionship study Hna O (who didn´t know that I was feeling down) shared DyC 118:3. It was literally a direct answer to my prayer. I felt so comforted in that moment. Heavenly Father chooses our companions. He knows us and knows exactly what we need, and Hna O has been such a great blessing! We´re super different, but I´m learning to be more humble, prayerful, and patient! 

Friday- At 3pm we left the house to work. I think we went to THIRTEEN I repeat 13 investigators´ homes and NADIE estaba. In our area, that means a LOT of walking. Hours. But as we were walking down a street, we passed a house with a family inside talking. After passing the house, at the street corner, I had this overwhelming feeling that we needed to go back. The Spirit literally stopped me in my tracks. We knocked on the door and they said we could come back later to teach them! The Lord´s hand is in everything :) 

Saturday- We taught a lesson to Gerardo. He had a baptismal date but last week he didn´t keep the word of wisdom. We taught about repentance and the Atonement and he received a priesthood blessing to give him the strength he needs to keep the commandments before his baptism. The Atonement has taken on a whole new meaning for me here as I watch people use and apply it in their lives! 

Sunday- Sundays are love-hate relationship here. I wake up excited to attend sacrament meeting and then we walk out the door and it is STRESS-o-rama. We first went to the Paredes house to help Andrea, 14, get ready for church, they´re a menos activa familia. They were talking forever so we left flying to pick up an investigator, Valeria, before church and then Valeria WASN´T THERE even though we stopped by the night before to remind her and she confirmed that she was coming! Ugh. So I was sitting in sacrament meeting really ticked that we had a grand total of zero investigators at church since the others didn´t show up as well. I was basically thinking there was no hope for this area because no one will come to church. But then, in gospel principles class, I just felt this overwhelming peace. It was a feeling that everything is going to be okay and I just need to have the faith to keep working hard. We had ward council directly after church, and I am SO grateful for our ward, they are awesome. It´s a small ward, like I said, but our leaders are fantastic. I´m excited to work with them to help our investigators and menos activos to progress. Andrea had an interview after church to be a Rescatada, since she was less active in the past. We were waiting for her to accompany her back to her house and she came out of the interview with tears in her eyes! At first we were worried that something was wrong but then she said that the interview was an answer to her prayer! She had been having doubts, and didn´t know if she wanted to serve a mission, even though it´s a ways in the future. She said that the bishop helped her to set goals for reading the book of mormon, and she wants to prepare for a mission! People of ALL ages here are such an example to me!

Cultural Notes-
It is super windy here most days. At random moments we get annihilated by sand and dust. I should start wearing sunglasses for my eyes! 

When I introduce myself as Hna Parks here, people usually have a confused look on their face so sometimes I just say Hna Parques to make things easier, haha!

Some people here really slack with being on time and being at their house when we´ve scheduled an appt with them. But, if they´re home, whether we´ve scheduled an appt or not, they always let us in! Super welcoming all the time. They will stop whatever they´re doing to listen to us. 

The best decision I ever made was bringing stickers on the mission. Seriously. The children of Peru are out to destroy missionary work, haha. Whenever one of the tiny tyrants are trying to destroy a lesson, I whip out the stickers and we´re good!

Hope you guys had a great week! Love you all!

Hermana Parks