Monday, November 30, 2015

The latest from Ignacio Merino - Thanksgiving keke, busy Sunday mornings, and Alma 37:37

This will be quick this week because this keyboard is terrible. 
I`ve been in this area for an eternity but somehow I never lack things to say because there arealways new miracles and people and everyday Peru moments to note :) 

P-days are crazy here in Piura. Our mission is so FUN and I love it. Today we had a soccer tournament (and last week) for the whole mission. They made us hermanas play so that things don`t get too competitive/aggressive but with the future Messi`s we have in our zone, I really didn`t help the team much, haha. We ended up in 3rd place, not too shabby! 

They don`t celebrate Thanksgiving here but advantages of having a gringa companera is that we sang Count your Many Blessings all day and bought a keke with chocolate chips to celebrate :)
Just in time for the holiday, we had a couple experiences this week that made me super thankful for my family, health, opportunities, and most of all the gospel of Jesus Christ! 

- We met Addy Jorget this week. Her husband is paralyzed from the waist down and her youngest daughter has leukemia. If you thought that was all, her second daughter disowned her as her mom and in their last house they were robbed of absolutely everything they had (including the book of mormon she had from missionaries years ago). Yet she is the sweetest and such an example to me of patience and positivity. We are excited to continue teaching her and her daughter. I know that with whatever trial or test we are given in this life, the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is the answer! 

- Also met and taught Soledad. I will never forget the smile her down syndrome son had on his face when we gave him a picture of Jesus Christ. They came to church on Sunday and really enjoyed it. Juan (her son) was totally tranquilo the whole time looking at the pictures in the Liahonas, which was such a blessing so that Soledad could focus on the messages! 

- Zone meeting was fantastic and we are super excited to start showing Ha Nacido Un Salvador to contacts, investigators and members! Let`s flood the world with it :) 

- Oh man I don`t think any other time in my life will match the stress of Sunday mornings. Lately we have had a ton of people coming to church who we just met aka they don`t know members yet aka it`s all on us. But we survived and made it in time to take the sacrament after a lot of prayers that morning! 

- I ponderized Alma 37: 37 this week. On my mission these past 5 and a half months, I`ve learned how to pray. I mean, of course I prayed before the mission but I didn`t pray. One of my favorite parts of PME is chapter 4 in the section Pray with Faith. I love that it says effective prayer requires great effort. I remember my first week when Hermana Orellana would pray for literally 20 minutes straight at night and I was always amazed at how she could do that.....well now I know! Prayer is humility in action. It`s praying specifically and sincerely, name by name. It`s a form of worship as we pour out our hearts in gratitude to our Father. It`s a conversation with Him and a report of how we`re doing as his servants on the earth. It`s a tool to receive inspiration and spiritual impressions. 
¨Recognize that your Heavenly Father knows what you need better than you do.¨ 
¨Prayer is a form of work, and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings.¨ 
If it takes a solid 20 minutes to gain the highest of all blessings and communicate fully with my Father in Heaven, 20 mins it will be! 

Love you all and hope your Thanksgiving holiday was spiritually and physically ¨filling¨ :)
Hermana Parks 
a hole

La Familia Paredes

No turkey, but plenty of awesome fruit!

Again, no turkey, but POLLO

Zone soccer tournament.  #32.  Shocker.

Action shot of planning/coordinating rides to church

Monday, November 23, 2015

Ignacio Merino week 21 - Hermana Parks sees clouds in the sky!

Being a missionary is kind of the coolest thing ever. We get to watch Heavenly Father work MIRACLES through us, and it is the coolest. 
¨Behold, are not the things that God hath wrought marvelous in our eyes?¨
 - Mormon 9: 16

Here are just a few of the miracles we experienced this week! 

- We were walking to an appt on Tuesday and I was pretty stressed over some logistical missionary things -- I don´t remember exactly what. We passed a family sitting outside but I was so wrapped up in myself that by the time I heard them say Buenas tardes, we were already almost past the house. Immediately I knew that we should have stopped and started criticizing myself thinking ¨ Well Hermana Parks, you just deprived a family of the opportunity to hear the gospel.¨ As we got to the street corner we heard voices behind us yelling ¨Senoritas! Les llama!¨ We turned around and a couple kids were running down the street waving at us. We turned around and walked back to where they were. The mom and her sister started asking us questions about who we were, about our message, etc. We scheduled an appointment to visit them on Friday, and after visiting them Friday we love them so much! Deisy, Maria, and their combined 6 kids as well as 2 nephews both age 19. They weren´t able to make it to church because all the kids had school stuff (Peru is about to head into vacations and they currently have school on weekends) but they´re coming next week! So LESSON LEARNED that day: Even when we don´t follow the impressions of the Spirit, those prepared to receive the gospel do, even if they have to send their kids running down the street after us :) 

- I got the impression this week that I needed to make my prayers more specific. I was talking about it with Hna Glunt one day and she said she´s been getting the same impression. This was solidified when we were talking to an RM from our ward who served in Chile and he randomly gave us the advice to pray specifically. So we decided to do it. We prayed that we would have 7 investigators at church. Seven. No less. We followed through with our plans to make calls, pick people up, teach the importance of the Sabbath Day, and get members involved throughout the week. On Sunday when the meeting started we only had three and were pretty disappointed to say the least. Then after the opening prayer Gina walked in with her family. We were still pretty down until third hour when la familia Valdiviezo Calle showed up! We started counting who had been at church and we had SEVEN investigators at church!! Lesson learned: we need to pray even more specifically so that they can all be there for 3 hours :) I am so grateful for the ability to communicate with my Heavenly Father and not only pray for things I need personally, but also for the people he has sent me to serve. 

On Sunday we found out that the lady that does our laundry had we were thinking of who else we could ask to take her place because we aren´t about to go down to the river and do it ourselves, haha. (jokes, there is no body of water near here) We ate lunch at a member´s home, Estela, for the first time and found out that she´s a single mother of 3 kids and is looking for more work. Heavenly Father is so aware of his children in need! Estela will be doing our laundry from now on :) 

On Thursday while looking for a contact we found ourselves in an area where we had never been before. It´s like this mini neighborhood that was suuuper poor. Cardboard houses, kids rolling around in the sand, dogs eating fish heads off the ground, the whole jist. We were super stoked to start contacting there, but 

Elder Ayala on his birthday (eggs on head, Peruvian tradition)

kids with baby chicken

mosquito killing device?? (no explanation from la hermana on this one)

sunset in Piura
decided we better make sure it´s our area (there has always been a little confusion as to the boundaries of our area). After a few phone calls we realized it´s not....and neither is Los Sauces....or 28 de julio. We were super bummed by this news because those are areas where we´ve been teaching!!! But then we realized that actually, this is an answer to our prayer. We have too many people to teach and not enough time to help all of them progress and WA-LA! Our area just got smaller. Miracles, people.

On Sunday we were waiting outside the chapel with the Elders and a bunch of leaders from consejo waiting for the bishop to get there with the keys....when he texted us and said there wasn´t going to be consejo. Great. But our leaders are fantastic and were like älright. elderes y hermanas. Who are we gonna visit? We went to a few houses with Hno David and Hno Henry but no one was home. Finally we thought of Cristela ( a menos activa who wasn´t progressing so we hadn´t visited her in a long time). We stopped by and at the end she was in tears thanking us for coming at the exact moment when she needed it. (family problems). That was not a coincidence and we are so grateful for the Spirit! (and shoutout to the bishop for cancelling consejo, haha)

- Italo made us smoothies this week. Like real, legit smoothies. Hna Glunt and I were HUGE smoothie drinkers before the mission but hadn´t had one in 5 months. IT WAS THE BEST. Natural yogurt, these dried fig things, seeds, organic honey, soy milk. Italo is our favorite. I´m counting this event as one of the week´s miracles :) 

- THE WEATHER HAS BEEN SO WEIRDLY COOL. Clouds came out at least like 3 times this week and we were so. happy. It was a great tender mercy to not be sweating buckets for a couple afternoons! Also the mosquitoes almost completely disappeared!! My legs are counting their blessings as they heal from last week´s attacks :)

We had intercambios on Tuesday and I went to Paita for the day! Every single appointment fell through and we were singing the pioneer children song as we walked a thousand miles AND we didn´t have water when we woke up in the morning, BUT it was such a great intercambio! I was with Hna Celis from Santiago Chile and this is her last transfer in the field! She taught me so much by her example and I have some new goals of things I want to emulate from her example. 

Update on the person I live with 24-7: She is the best. I love Hermana Glunt so stinkin much and we are trying not think about cambios here in a couple weeks! Sometimes as we´re walking we pick cheesy hymns in Spanish to sing that match the pace of how we´re walking...I don´t know if that makes sense, haha. This week it was numero 80 Secreta Oracion. Everyday. We came up with some great harmonization and canons and ended up laughing every single time. During a lesson with la familia Araujo we picked it for the opening hymn. (worst idea ever). I started laughing softly at about the 2nd line down and then Hna Glunt lost it too. We spent the rest of the song trying to pull ourselves together. Oh man, it was WAY embarrassing but la fam Araujo are basically our family so they know we´re crazy :) 

My relationship with my Savior was strengthened so much this week. Boris is a serious one-of-a-kind investigator and let me tell ya, a piece of work. But we are being patient, and we know he has a sincere desire to learn, even if he has a lot of doubts. He´s come to church twice now. His problem this week was his lack of faith in jesus Christ. I have never taught anyone in Peru who didn´t believe in Jesus Christ and I had never studied the divinity and reality of Christ himself until this week. And I am SO GRATEFUL for that experience! I know that Jesus Christ lived and walked here on the earth. I know that he died for me, but most of all I know that He lives. He is my Redeemer and Friend and he is real. 

Overall, a week full of miracles and my heart is so full! 
I am grateful for so many things but especially for this opportunity to be a missionary. It is the best decision I´ve made in my life up to this point. 

Love you all!
Hermana Parks

Monday, November 16, 2015

Semana 20 en Ignacio Merino. It's hot in Piura. Hnas Parks and Glunt don't seem to mind.

This week was crazy busy and crazy great. It started out with a noche de hogar con las familias Curay, Araujo, and Ana T, zone meeting wednesday, and 11 -- let me repeat -- ELEVEN lecciones con miembro (member lessons). Our ward is the greatest. We currently have more people to visit than we can fit in our schedule...which is where the gift of discernment comes in because we have to start prioritizing. We have found a ton of great JAS age investigators lately (jovenes adultos solteros aka young adults). The JAS in our ward have been great accompanying us to lessons, practically ALL of them came to the baptism to support Eduardo, and they´re planning an activity this week to invite the new investigators.

I´ll give you an example of one of our days this week -- Saturday:

We had a lesson at 9 which is normally when we have comp study but desperate times call for desperate measures... We visited a reference who had been attending a different ward. But he wasn´t there so we met his brother and uncle...but couldn´t enter the house because the only woman inside was sleeping and, well, mission rules. Which was awkward to explain to them and they didn´t really understand why we couldn´t sit inside the door even if it was open. While I was trying to explain this, I ACCIDENTALLY STEPPED ON THEIR SMALL NEWBORN PUPPY who was behind me. Terrible right? I felt so. bad. Luckily he  was alright, but that just increased the awkwardness of the situation by about 200%. So we ended up teaching them in the park across from their house. And they had SO MANY QUESTIONS that we ended up teaching for an hour and half. Cesar is 23 and was Catholic as a kid but had a ton of questions about the church. Javier is his uncle who has a band and travels ALL OVER Peru so doesn´t actually live in one place...and he´s basically Agnostic... and was super curious about what we believe and our standards, etc. 

After that we were heading to the next appt and stopped by the panaderia. Jean Carlos (literally most popular name in peru besides Juan) who sold us pan contacted us asking about who we were, about the church, etc. Practically invited himself to take the lessons. So we made an appt with him, and as we walked away I was telling Hna Glunt that sometimes I´m more stressed than excited about super great new contacts and investigators because we have SO MANY right now. We stopped by German´s taller -- like where his fixes cars -- and read the BoM with him for a bit (he´s been needing frequent visits lately since he´s struggling so we stop by every few days for about 20 mins), then taught Lita (investigator). Then as we were looking for a contact we ran into Kelly, a previous contact who immediately wanted us to come in and visit with her. She´s super duper Catholic and mostly was asking us about the US so we drank the juice she gave us super fast and shared a quick message so that we could peace out and get to lunch....which was with el obispo and his family at a restaurant since he had forgotten we were coming over. haha. 

Later that night was Eduardo and Arturo´s baptism!! It was such a great baptismal service. So much support from the ward, we had everyone there write notes to them as they were changing clothes after the ordinance, and you could tell that they were so happy afterwards! Gina will be baptized the 12th of December...she has just struggled coming to church because of her job. They are praying as a family to find a solution so that she doesn´t have to work Sundays. I feel so blessed to be a part of bringing a family into the gospel!! And I´m SO grateful for the revelation Pres. Rasmussen received to have us knock on doors because that´s how we found la familia Araujo! 

Our investigators didn´t do well this week with asistencia....but we had a less active come and were so happy!!! Reyna was quite reserved when we first met her but has changed a ton and we are thrilled every time she keeps the small commitments like reading the BoM and coming to church! 

Coffee is going to be a desafio for Italo but we are praying super hard for him! 

Anyways, things are awesome down here in Peru! Still blazing hot and we currently have an ant, spider, and mosquito problem in our room, but I still love being a missionary here in Piura :) 

Spiritual thought next week!
Hermana Parks 

A cethedral

Working in the desert

Lunch with the obispo and familia

Time for FHE

Mangos + Libros de Mormon

Eduardo y Arturo

Sunset in Piura

Con los elderes

Monday, November 9, 2015

Ignacio Merino week 19 - including survival strategies for the (near) equatorial sun during "spring".

New transfer, new district, new month, and it´s MANGO season in Piura so we are happy campers! 

Hna Glunt and I are loving our area and loving this work -- we have adopted Elder Paredes´ daily ritual of shouting ¨Vamos a bautiZAR!¨ randomly throughout the day .. keeps us pumped! 

We have also figured out some survival strategies for serving a mission in Piura: 

- High ponytails. All day, every day. Having my hair down is the worst thing ever walking in this heat. In almost every lesson our investigators comment on how sweaty we are, it´s the Piura life! 

- Bodoques. We discovered these this week...they´re like these flavored slushie things in little plastic bags that you buy and then eat by biting off the plastic. We buy em´ for 60 centimos which is like less than 20 cents while we´re out walking. Coconut flavor is the best. 

- Sunscreen 2x/day. The sun is actually even stronger in the mornings when we´re out between 10 and 1. 

- And of course, tons of water! I think I´ve drank more water here in the field than the first 19 years of my life haha. 

So hermano Italo invited us over for lunch on Tuesday and gave us plato tipico de la cierra! papas, trigo instead of rice (hallelujah), cucumber, pollo, and papaya with organic honey. It was so fun. It´s cool to see Italo´s faith growing line by line, precept by precept. He still thinks he has a long way to go but I know that as he continues to read and pray and go to church he´ll be ready for his baptismal date on the 28th! He was taking notes during the sacrament meeting talks and clase de principios... so pilas. 

MIRACLES this week:
- Internet cafe was full last Monday so we contacted for 15 mins and talked to a lady walking off the bus. She told us that we could visit her son. Stopped by the next day, and turns out he knows Dangelle Gomez from el colegio! We were like ¨hey do you have plans in 20 minutes?¨ And he came with us to the noche de hogar that we had already planned with las familias Gomez and Araujo! We watched Meet the Mormons and Boris seemed to like it, as well as the Araujo´s cousin who they brought (non member). Boris is super focused on worldy things and straight up told us that his goal in life is to make a ton of money. Despite his ¨lack of interest¨ in religion, he came to church!  The Lord truly puts us in the right places at the right times to fulfill his work. I´m so grateful for the opportunity to be an instrument in His hands. We will continue to pray for Boris and help him progress! 

- Nina is an investigator we´ve been teaching for a little while now. She is very receptive (missionaries visited her several years ago and her husband recently passed away) but she expressed this week that she feels she hasn´t received her answer yet. We shared part of Alma 32 with her. I could feel and physically see the Spirit witness to her as we read that passage. It was such a cool experience and I LOVE the teachings in Alma 32 about our faith as seeds that swell and grow gradually as we nourish them. 

- Eliana: we haven´t been able to teach her hardly at all for a few weeks because of her schedule but she has come to church twice these past 2 Sundays. Initially it seemed that she had quite a few doubts, but then as we walked her home yesterday she told us ¨Quiero ser Mormona!¨  WHAT. We were so happy!! She is the sweetest. 

This week I ponderized Helaman 5:12. Ï have loved this scripture for a long, long time! It was the girls camp theme 2 years ago, it was one of my favorite scripture masteries Senior year, and I love it´s relation to How Firm a Foundation which I´ve been humming literally since I left on the plane for my mission. 
This week I asked myself the question: What can I do right now to more fully build my foundation on Christ?¨ And the answer immediately came to my mind: repent. I am so grateful for that piece of personal revelation. As missionaries we teach about repentance all. the. time. That is our calling, to declare repentance to all nations. But I often do repent? I am so very far from perfect, and I make mistakes on the daily. I need repentance just as much as any of our investigators or less actives or recent converts. I love what PMG says about repentance: 
¨As we learn more about what the Savior expects of us, we will want to show our love by obeying him. Thus, as we repent daily, we will find that our lives will change and improve. Our hearts and our behavior will become more Christlike. We will come to feel great joy in repenting daily.¨ 

This is my new personal goal! Repent daily. 

Today we´re heading to the mission house to make cookies with Hna Rasmussen! 
Les quiero mucho y espero que todos tengan una buena semana! 
Hermana Parks 

Note from dad here:
Tracey and I were in Portland a few weeks ago so we decided to try Las Primas, a local Peruvian street food cafe in North Portland.  Because Christine talks about Inca Kola, we brought some home for everyone to try... it's a bubble gum + cream soda blend as far as I can tell.  Not a huge fan of the soda but we loved el lomo saltado and las empanadas.  Check out Las Primas if you're in Portland (if you can't get a reservation at La Andina, which has been the case every time I've been there).  
No photos this week.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Update from Ignacio Merino... baptism, Catacaos, getting good at using Hna Glunt's selfie stick

This week was PURE JOY....and some stress...but mostly pure joy because Ana was baptized! 
I think I´ve told some of her story before...but it´s kind of a miracle. When we first visited her she made it very clear that she wanted to maintain her religion...(her mom is so Catholic that once we were there for 45 minutes and didn´t get a single word in because her mom went off about her convictions...). After the first visit we weren´t able to contact her for a month and took that to mean she wasn´t interested. Then one day we got a call from the Elders in Angamos telling us we needed to visit her ASAP. (She had been attending church there.) We visited her and she expressed that she has always felt an emptiness in her life...and was always hesitant about the Mormon religion...but that she has felt something different since attending church. She began reading the Book of Mormon and praying...and this week she was baptized! Her testimony of the restored gospel is an incredible example to me. She says that she has never felt closer to Christ. After taking pictures outside, a few minutes before the service began, I found her in a small hallway bowed in prayer -- that was such a tender moment for me. As she walked up the stairs of the font after being baptized, she was tearful and very emotional. We hugged her and cried tears of joy alongside her! It´s difficult to describe the feelings I had that day and the day after when she was confirmed a member of the church and received the gift of the Holy Ghost. She and her boyfriend Alberto have plans to be sealed in the temple next year and Hna Glunt and I are determined to be there in Trujillo with them! 

On Tuesday this week Argelia, investigator, called us at about 8:30 during our study to say that she needed help -- we could tell things weren´t okay. Argelia lives alone and takes care of her mother...and has no family or friends who live in Piura. We had offered to serve her a couple times but she had politely refused every time...until Tuesday. We could hear the desperation in her voice and were at her house 15 mins later. Her mom, who has severe Alzheimer´s had been folded over in her chair all night and Argelia hadn´t been able to move her. She needed some other hands to get her mom into her bed. She began to cry when she got there, telling us that she had no one to call and didn´t know what to do. We helped her and afterwards read part of 3 Nephi 11 together. She got emotional reading verse 11 which talks about Christ doing the will of his Father. She expressed that she needs to accept the will of the Father as well, as hard as it may be. It was so special to be there with her that morning and feel the LOVE our Father in Heaven has for her. She carries a heavy burden every day and does it completely alone. But she´s not alone, because the Atonement of Christ applies to her as well as each and every one of us! 

On Thursday we had planned to come again and help her with whatever she needed -- cleaning, cooking, etc -- because she lives in very humble circumstances and we wanted to serve her. Unfortunately when we got there Thursday morning she was about to leave with an aunt who was in town, so we walked away in our sport clothes trying to think of someone we could serve by surprise because our plan had fallen through.....right as we were thinking of this we pass a 74 year old woman hacking down branches off a tree with a machete. We were like ¨hey podemos ayudarle?¨ and she didn´t even hesitate giving Hna Glunt the machete, haha! So we spent an hour with our new friend Feliciana cutting down these ridiculously tall branches of her tree! That woman is incredible. She doesn´t know how to read and basically has nothing, yet she is SO sweet and dang she can work that machete! She gave us gelatin water at the end that was less than tasteful but it´s the thought that counts right? :)

La Familia Araujo´s progress fills us with SO much joy as the weeks go by! Gina came to ALL 3 hours of church on Sunday even though she risked her job. The ward has just took them under their wing and you can see how happy they are surrounded by their new friends at church. Eduardo and Arturo are already talking about missions and Gina has a ton of questions about the temple. She fed us tamales last night which were SO GOOD -- Advantages of teaching people who work in restaurants! 

Ximena´s parents don´t want her to be baptized yet but this week teaching her La Familia Proclamacion I had the impression to invite her to share it with her parents! We will see how that goes., 

CAMBIOS -- oh man, the day of was SO stressful because everyone was joking that I´d get transferred. I kind of felt like I wanted to throw up. But ALL¨S GOOD WERE STAYING TOGETHER IN IGNACIO!! So so happy. This is almost definitely my last transfer and I´m deterined to make it the best! 

Spiritual thought next week! No time, but love you all and hope you have a fantastic week!
Hermana Parks 



District selfie

Familia Araujo.  Love them so much!

Service with our new friend Feliciana

Construction in Peru

Agua de gelatin from Feliciana.  We carefully poured it back into the jug when she stepped away :)

Goodbye to Elder Mendoza

Zone leaders selfie, Elders Beidleman and Riquelme

massive selfie post baptism

Hna Huaman and her cute grandkids