Monday, November 28, 2016

This is it.

A year and a half. 
18 months. 
13 transfers.
10 companions.
4 areas.
& 1 changed hermana. 

It honestly doesn´t feel real. This past week I´ve just been working hard each day, walking and teaching and serving as we always do. Then occasionally I remember that the days and the hours are numbered. Then my stomach gets tight and I feel the tears coming on, but after a silent prayer my heart is filled with gratitude. I can´t put this experience into words. I´ll try to cover the hundreth part, as the prophet Mormon, but it still won´t be an accurate summary of this incredible journey. 

I´ve loved it all. I loved dumping sand out of my shoes each night, I loved walking under the burning equatorial sun, I loved teaching the message of the Restoration to dozens and hundreds of people. I loved the stressful emotional days and the joyous, awe-some ones. (and sometimes all those emotions in a single day).

A young mom -- who I look up to a ton -- told me something the night before I left that I´ll never forget. She said (as she wrestled with her 2 young boys): Being a mom is hard, but being a missionary is pure joy. I got to my first area with my first companion here in Piura, and by my first week I was like WHAT in the world was she talking about. This is h-a-r-d. We had no progressing investigators, I was struggling to communicate with my companion, it was exhausting, we were given hot soup for lunch after walking in the fiery sun, and my weaknesses were conveniently slapped in my face, all at once. Pure joy? I wasn´t seeing it at all. 

Then that all started to change... I was humbled (to the dust, literally), I learned patience. I learned how to love people who I had almost nothing in common with. And most of all I learned to accept HIS will. I came on the mission with my own plan and my own goals. But it wasn´t until I got on my knees and asked HIM what HE wanted me to do these 18 months in Perú, that I finally began to understand. 
We have a Heavenly Father who loves us. That´s the first principle of the first lesson we teach as missionaries. I´ve always known it, but I didn´t understand it until I came on a mission. Throughout this whole experience, I´ve learned to turn it over to him. Accept his timing, trust in his plan, and work hard every day to make him proud. And most of all, I´ve seen this simple truth through the people I´ve met. 

I LOVE PERU if I haven´t mentioned it. I´m in love with this country and in love with these people. This is the Lord´s work. I have not a single doubt in my heart, because I have been a witness of miracles time after time in the lives of these people. I´ll give you a couple examples from this week:
- We were knocking on doors and not seeing any success (in our mission, this means that yes we get in lots of doors, but we have difficulty finding those ready to act on the invitations we extend). But after a lesson with an hermana who didn´t want to learn more, we asked for references. She mentioned that her neighbor was a member of the church - Mercedes Silva. We passed by and miraculously found Mercedes on her only day off. We found her alone. Her son was killed in a shooting last year. Her husband left her for another woman years ago, and her other children live in Lima. She said that she had been living in a deep sadness and guilt, knowing that she had distanced herself from God. (she hadn´t been to church in 3 years) We were able to teach her about the Plan of Salvation and see the joy on her face when she learned that she could be baptized for her son in a temple of God. Mercedes came to church with us this week, partook of the sacrament, and is coming back to the faith she once knew. These moments are the pure joy of the mission.
- Another is Luis (25), who moved to Piura from la selva recently and started dating a member in our ward. He came to church of his own accord and is now reading the Book of Mormon and preparing to enter the waters of baptism. He expressed to us his desire to change and how, after attending church, he felt like this is the place to do it. 
- And lastly, is Jaime (19). When we met Jaime recently, his mom had SO many doubts about the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, that we didn´t get any chance to focus on Jaime´s needs or questions. But Jaime took a step of faith and showed up to church by himself yesterday! He was soaking it all up, in every class. He was shocked to learn that YES we have living prophets and apostles today. 
- And lastly MARK. Who I´ve been teaching for 6 months and who´s going to be baptized this Thursday

This is the pure joy of the mission. Seeing people experience the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the divine guidance and peace that comes from it. I know that Jesus Christ lives. He is the Savior and Redeemer of mankind. I´ve known it all my life, but I never understood it until the mission. I´ve learned about forgiveness and grace and mercy. I´ve realized that I need Him, more than I need anyone or anything else. 

To close, I want to share with you guys a spiritual experience I had this week. Elder Montoya, of the Quorum of the 70, came to visit our mission. We had a conference with 7 zones (almost the whole mission) and at the end Elder Montoya picked 2 Elders and 1 hermana to interview. I do not know why I was the only hermana picked 2 years in a row (elder godoy last year), but apparently God had something to teach me. During this interview, Elder Montoya asked me some questions. And almost none of the questions had to do with me. He asked me how my companion was doing (and wanted to know her name), he asked me how my area was doing, how my family was doing back home, how is my relationship with my mission president, and how is my relationship with my Savior. Through this wonderful conversation with Elder Montoya the thought kept coming to my mind: It´s not about you. This mission has had nothing to do with me. It´s about the people. Over these last 18 months you guys got pictures of cool P-days and zone conferences and baptisms, but those weren´t the most significant moments. The most significant moments were sitting in the homes of these people and teaching them the restored gospel. It was crying and praying over them in weekly planning and daily study sessions. It was seeing the Lord work miracles in their lives.  

I´m just confused at how a mission so completely not about me could bless me so much. I don´t understand it. With all the emotions I´m feeling, the most prominent is gratitude. I feel so grateful to have served the Lord these 18 months. And the great part is that it doesn´t have to end! I have this burning desire to serve the Lord for the rest of my life and beyond. I´m willing to give up my plan, my goals, and my will, for His. Just like the Ammon in the BoM, I´m willing to serve in whatever calling, go wherever and do whatever He wants me to do, until the day I die (Alma 17: 22-23) 

Lastly, I want all of YOU to know how grateful I am. Mom & Dad, I don´t even have words. My appreciation and love for you both has increased beyond measure. I´m so excited to see you soon. Gramma and Aunt Em & fam, you have been my most constant supporters. Siblings, I love ya so much, even though you slacked sometimes in writing me :) old companions and friends, I´ve felt your support and thoughts and prayers every day. And for those still out in the field, enjoy every moment because this will be you soon enough! 

I love this gospel. I know that we belong to the Church of Jesus Christ, restored through a prophet of God. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. God sent his best Son, so that we could have hope and one day return to his presence. This is his work. I feel humbled to be a part of it. 

For the last time,
Hermana Parks

ps. for those who don´t know, my parents will be here this Saturday. I´ll be home on December 11th for those in Medford, see ya at the airport!
Conferencia con Elder Montoya! 

Noche de Hogar with Hna Regina & crew

and reunited with my sweet hna kelley! 

Noche Misional - volleyball style. Missionaries vs. members! haha (I was on exchange with Hna Holbrook) 

Fiorella, Alan, Sofia, & Katerine. We´ve got an investigator with bap date, recent convert, less active, and active member in the mix! Love working with the JAS.

My Peruvian momma, Janet & her son Josef!

I never want to forget the little things.

Collins & playing with her glasses 

Last P-day, shopping in Real Plaza. (the mall carries the only evidence of christmas spirit thus far)


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A mission from a parent's perspective: here's one post from the Daddy Blogger

OK, sports fans, here is an unsolicited hijack post by Hno Parks, padre of Hna Parks.  As her mission comes to a close, I want to add my perspective as the dad.  When I look at the statistics on the back end of the blog, I realize that we get traffic from a variety of sources, including some that might indicate this blog is occasionally a source of information for missionaries who are soon to serve, considering service, or remembering their service in Peru (or elsewhere).  My intent in posting today is that someone might find this blog, read Christine's weekly messages, and find the family perspective to be helpful.

Christine wanted to serve a mission when she was a small girl.  Her parents and grandparents served missions; we regularly have missionaries in our home; and we've been blessed over the years to see a few friends embrace the gospel.  When the age change was announced in 2012, Christine was more committed and excited to serve.  I explain this to highlight the fact that I was prepared for her to serve a mission.  Her decision was anticipated and we shared in her excitement to serve the Lord.

What I didn't anticipate was the change in family dynamic that would occur as a result of her service.  Monday afternoons became a weekly highlight.  Her messages and photos cast a new light in our home.  Our other children see her service and make decisions differently.  Their faith and willingness to accept challenges have increased because of her example.  We've used her missionary service as an introduction to share with others.  I grossly underestimated the happiness I would feel as I watch her serve and grow.

Christine was well prepared to serve in many ways: socially, intellectually, spiritually, and physically.  As can be seen if one reads her messages carefully, her mission was also the most difficult experience of her life (and she had done a few difficult things prior to her mission).  The experience has transformed her.  She understands the Atonement of Jesus Christ in a way that she didn't before her mission.  Please don't misunderstand my assertion herein--missions are not the right path for everyone--but her mission was right for her, and for her family.  I think she will agree with me on this point.

For parents who are reading this as their child considers a mission, perhaps just received a call to Piura, or who are looking for answers to basic questions about missionary service in general, I have a few pieces of advice from the daddy blogger perspective:
  • Enjoy your son or daughter's mission.  It ends too soon.  The happiness you feel as you watch her serve is unique--a reward from Heaven for your effort to raise your child.  You may be surprised, as I am at this moment, to feel some sadness when she completes her service.
  • Remember that she is well cared-for.  My wife and I have prayed daily for her safety, success, and health; for her investigators; members in her wards and branches; the Rasmussens; her companions, the mototaxi drivers; and her pensionista.  We never doubted that a loving God and some angels in Piura watched out for her on a daily basis.  Those angels are named throughout this blog over the past 18 months.  We are eternally grateful for them, and hope to replicate the service they gave.
  • Become a better person because of her service.  She will do it, and so can you.
When I drove to my office on the morning of June 15, 2015 after saying goodbye to my daughter at the airport in Medford, OR, I listened to a song composed by Marta Keen and sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir: "Homeward Bound".  On that difficult but happy day, I needed to be reminded of the value of setting my child free.  Keen's lyrics best express this concept:

If you find it’s me you’re missing, if you’re hoping I’ll return,
To your thought I’ll soon be list’ning; in the road I’ll stop and turn.
Then the wind will set me racing as my journey nears its end,
And the path I’ll be retracing when I’m homeward bound again.
Bind me not to the pasture. Chain me not to the plow.
Set me free to find my calling and I’ll return to you somehow
Kevin Parks


Monday, November 21, 2016

La Piura Vida en Tacalá: Team Parks/Rafaelle

When Mom, Dad or Gramma send pictures from home and I get a glimpse of clouds or green mountains or people in long sleeves and sweaters I start freaking out and have the impulse to run outside and do snow angels in the hot sand because I´m going to miss it so much! I´ve really grown to love this dry desert that is Piura. 

Anyways, it was a great week here with Hna Rafaelle! I´m learning lots from her, she´s my second companion who has been a convert to the church and I love it! Her testimony is powerful, she can relate well to investigators, and she has the desire to learn all she can! (you never knew that you took Primary for granted until your companion doesn´t know about stories in the Book of Mormon like the 2000 stripling warriors and Ammon cutting off the arms) I feel like I´m training again, in a way. We´ve been working really hard so that she´ll be ready to lead the area in 2 weeks

Quote of the week goes to Hno Francisco: ¨paciencia, hermanitas, ya? paciencia.¨
That was right after he took us to his friend, Calletano´s house. Unfortunately, it was clear that Calletano and his wife weren´t going to accept a return visit after we listened to them go off for 45 minutes about why babies have to be baptized and why the Catholic Church is the only true church, etc. I was mostly just worried about Francisco getting discouraged since this was one of his first times accompanying us, but he had such a good attitude! Paciencia, hermanitas, paciencia. 

Miracles of the week:
- Lucia was baptized!!! that was so cool. They were all confirmed Sunday morning as a family! 
- We have been gifted SO many mangos this week, I think we´re gonna start our own fruit stand outside, haha. (Also we have decided that mango is definitely the fruit of the tree of life)
- We had a cool service opportunity helping Lorena and Liz teaching their math class to a group of 13 year old girls. Afterwards we presented ourselves and a little of our message and asked the girls if we could visit their families. We ended up getting 14 references that day! We sent away the ones that aren´t in our area, and we have a nice list of families to visit this week! 
- We met Francisco´s brother, Juan Pedro, one morning this week when we passed by his house. Of course at that moment they were working on Francisco´s family history and writing down dates! We sent the hermanas in Enace Juan Pedro´s address and Hna Tiñini told me that they´re visiting him and he´s awesome! Woo hoo! The Spirit of Elijah is taking over Piura :)

Something I´ve been studying lately is the difference between sin and weakness. It´s actually a commonly misunderstood subject. But an article from the April 2015 Liahona provided some AWESOME insight, I´ve seriously been studying the same article for a week. 
¨Sin calls for immediate and pervasive change of mind, heart, and behavior, but weakness calls for humble, sustained effort, learning, and improvement.¨
We can never listen to Satan´s lies to our weaknesses make us unworthy of the Spirit. Weakness is a GIFT from God, not something to repent of. I´m grateful for the bundle of weaknesses God has given me. (which, as President said, may always be with me). But I´m also grateful for ALL I´ve learned from those weaknesses during my mission. At the beginning, it was like a slap in the face and wore me down a bit. Now, I´ve learned to be more humble and focused on sustained effort, learning, and improvement. I´ve learned that if I stop trying to reject/erase my weaknesses and instead accept them and rely on the Lord, that he´ll make them strong. 

Hermana Parks

Cute Hna Rafaelle! 

Don´t mind me, just taking pics of every single detail before I leave! 

blinded by the burning sun, walking through the field to the church (which is also basically the community dump)


the members with us were in heaven swimming in the cool water after a scorching hike... obedience brings blessings, obedience brings blessings, that´s what we missionaries told ourselves :) 


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Introducing: Compañera número 9

My daughter was torn from my arms this morning. We hate transfers. 
But POSITIVES -- I´m staying in my area! Everyone at church was like ¨wait, Hna Parks is stillhere?¨ I know, I know, it´s probably time I go soon considering that I walk around with my eyes closed and can do our progress record without using the area book since I have everyone´s address memorized... but anyways. My time with Hermana Kelley was a dream, if I haven´t mentioned it. I was trying to identify why and I realized that it´s because we are the same person. Truly. I´ve never had a companion so similar to me in personality, interests, motivation, humor, etc. They say that each of your companions has attributes of your future husband. If that´s true, then he is going to be no-drama, totally chill, ALL IN when it comes to service and forgetting yourself in the work of the Lord, solid testimony, never complains, and super sarcastic, haha. (And if he can get a noodle through his nose and out his mouth, then he is hermana kelley) hahaha. 

Highlights of the week:

1. CARLOS ESCUDERO¨S BAPTISM. It was so special to be there. As I heard him bear his testimony I had a flashback to Ignacio Merino September 2015 meeting this super genuine family with so many questions about the gospel. I remember that he served us homeade soup after helping them move and talked about his desire to be a good husband and father. The Lord´s hand has, without doubt, led him and his family to true conversion in the proper timing. His 11 year old son, Carlitos was baptized as well. Hermana Lucia still doesn´t feel like she has an answer, but the joy on her face that day makes me think that it won´t be long until she makes the decision as well. 

2. FAMILY HISTORY. The Spirit of Elijah was absolutely tangible this week. We took Francisco and María to the family history center in Miraflores on Saturday and were able to print out 14 names to take to the temple! They´ll be going in December with the ward. It was so funny sitting at the computer with a 74 year old who doesn´t know how to work a keyboard and asking him about all the dates of his extended family members. He´d say ¨hold on, hermana¨ and put his head in his hands for a minute going back in the timeline of his brain then burst out the birth or death dates of some super distant family member. (we´re talking back to the 1800´s) I love that guy. 

3. Karla, a friend of Keller, came to church! And Eric is progressing super well, he doesn´t feel ready for this Saturday for baptism but he´s so solid keeping commitments thus far. 

Loving the work and super excited to work with Hna Rafaelle (from Lima!)
I´m keeping Go Hard or Go Home as my motto.

Hermana Parks
Familia Escudero! Pure joy. Carlos & his son Carlos were baptized. Hermana Lucia was pregnant with that baby when we first met her! Time flies. 

just some one-on-one time with my girl Ashley.

what am I going to do in a world without fruit stands at every corner? (& mostly for the papaya)

moto ride with Hna Janet & Ashley

and me reading/sleeping during our BoM challenge this week. (turns out we underestimated how much time it was actually going to take... sooo we´re extending the challenge to 3 weeks, ha!) 

Reading, reading, reading the Book of Mormon Challenge

6am volleyball crew. The Elders fear our skills. 

Me & Hna Kelley enjoying our last moments in La Primavera. 

also Fiorella who accompanied us! 

Hna Kelley saying goodbye to some of our favorites here in Tacalá -- hermano Francisco and familia Zapata. 

Saying goodbye to Kelley. (this is our we-stayed-up-all-night-packing-and-we-hate-transfers face)

Meet: Hermana Rafaelle!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Week 73: the latest from Hnas Parks and Kelley in the #piuravida

Hermana Kelley had to fly to Lima yesterday for immigrations things, so I spent the day with Hermana Lang in Tacalá! Apparently we should proselyte every Monday because we had 7 appointments and found 2 new investigators. I was sore this morning from walking so much. (and since our area is pure sand we get the extra calf workout) Today we´re in Catacaos getting scriptures cases made and looking at paintings! 

Seriously my mind is blank... I don´t even know what happened this week. Oh yeah KELLER´S BAPTISM. It was waaaay better than our last baptismal service, anyone remember that story? This time it was the complete opposite. The entire bishopric was there early, I think 17 people checked the font at 15 minute intervals to make sure the water didn´t magically disappear, and we decided to leave the musical number out :) 

Keller is a stud! Let´s rewind to 4 weeks ago when cute 70 year old hermana Regina gave us the reference of one of her friends from the old persons club (literally they have a club in our neighborhood). His name was Victor and he was definitely not interested -- just like the last 3 references hna Regina had given us... (poor thing loves to give us references but her friends are all ultra-catholic). BUT, while in the house we met Victor´s son, Keller. 
Keller had been recently going through a rough-patch with health problems and losing his job. He had made some changes in his life like stop drinking alcohol. When we came he was eager to learn about the restored gospel. His testimony has grown little by little and now he is so excited to share the gospel with his family and friends! It´s been a joy to teach him. 

Other than that, we worked hard, slept, had leadership council, zone meeting, exchanges with the hermanas in Chulucanas (I was with Hna Signs who is the sweetest! from Colorado), and found new investigators! 

I have this new strategy to get time to stop -- I´m just going to forget I´m going home and immerse myself in the work and then save the freak-out and packing for my last night, sound good? 
Step one for immersion in the work: Hermana Kelley and I are reading the WHOLE Book of Mormon this week. Yep, 75 pages a day. We´re marking all the references of Christ. It´s been weird reading it in English for the first time in a year and a half but WOW I can testify that the Book of Mormon will strengthen our faith in Christ. He is our Savior and Redeemer. Without the BoM I wouldn´t be able to consider him the wonderful friend, counselor, and companion that He is to me.

Hermana Parks
Our cute girls -- Estefani, Anghye, (sisters) and their cousin Sharon. They came to church with her mom Nelida. All are reading the Book of Mormon, 10 year old Sharon is a child genius and always gives us a perfect analisis of her reading :) 

Keller´s baptism!!! 

You can´t really tell but there was this pack of like 17 dogs hanging out in our area .. I was brave enough to get close for a pic, haha

Leadership council! Hermana Ruiz goes home next week! pretty sad... I assured her that I´ll be making a trip to Argentina in the near future. 

Miraflores zone. 

More from Keller´s baptism.