Monday, January 25, 2016

Piura Central to Talara: an hermana's journey of happy/sad

Let´s just say that Hna C and I were 120% confident that we´d be together for at least one more transfer, if not until she ends her mission in April. Saturday we had completely forgotten that transfer calls were happening that night. We had Jefferson´s baptism that evening (which turned out to be perfect!). It was a stake baptismal service so while the converts were changing, Hna C and I were leading the congregation singing hymns. After singing a few, I turned to hymn 175 Ä donde me mandes, ire (I´ll go where you want me to go). I don´t know, I just really felt the Spirit while playing it and when we sat back down for the convert testimonies, I decided to read the lyrics. Here´s a line that stood out to me (more in Spanish, but here it is in English :) 

¨So trusting my all to thy tender care, and knowing thou lovest me, I´ll do thy will with a heart sincere: I´ll be what you want me to be. I´ll go where you want me to go dear Lord, over mountain or plain or sea. I´ll say what you want me to say dear Lord, I´ll be what you want me to be.¨ 

Literally Heavenly Father couldn´t have made it more clear. 
Predictably enough, President (who attended the baptism) personally told us our transfers afterwards...and...

I¨M IN TALARA!!! It´s 2 hours north of Piura and ON the ocean. I´m feeling an ocean breeze right here in this internet cafe! The church is smaller here and we´re in a branch, but Hna Shumway said it´s an awesome awesome area. 
Speaking of which, I´m with HERMANA SHUMWAY! Like the Hna Shumway who I was reading her blog for 5 months before the mission! Such a small world, haha. She is for sure one of the best missionaries in the mission so I am so happy! 

...But also like my heart has been broken in a million pieces.  I can´t say HOW MUCH I loved Piura Central. We visited la familia Valles for the last time last night and as we walked back on the sandy road leaving La Legua, I totally started crying. I have never felt so much LOVE in my life as I did when we walked up Jefferson´s street almost daily and his little siblings and cousins would run barefoot yelling ¨Hermanas!!¨ and come hug our skirts and kiss our cheeks. After finding Jefferson on day 1, I got to watch the Lord guide us as we found Angeles, Ximena, Martha, and Cinthia -- all from his neighbors or extended family. 
I got to see Hno Henry, recent convert, go to the temple for the first time and do the work for his family. 
I got to watch la familia Sosa Campos start to learn about the gospel and read the Book of Mormon.
I got to watch less actives come back to church and ward members get excited about missionary work..and most of all, I got to watch MYSELF change a ton.

And most of that change is honestly because of my companion.
Hermana Christianson is the greatest blessing of my mission thus far! She taught me how to be more charitable, unselfish, seek the companionship of the Spirit every hour of the day, LAUGH uncontrollably (this week it was when we remembered that NFL video about the crazy names of players...and couldn´t even pray to close companionship study because we were laughing so hard), and enjoy every part of my missionary work! I LOVE HER SO MUCH! It was so hard to leave this morning.....but it´s all good because we are planning to room together Winter 2017! 

And I know that I just got an equally amazing companion -- seriously I don´t know how I´m getting so lucky on my mission with these companions -- they are teaching me how to become more like my Savior Jesus Christ which is my main goal here. 

Other events this week --
- Intercambios with the hermanas in Sechura, I was with Hna Carrera from Trujillo!

- Worldwide missionary conference which was so so cool! I learned a ton and we´re starting to apply what we learned! A phrase I loved was ¨We find when we teach, we teach when we find, and we open our mouths to everyone.¨ Finding, teaching, baptizing, retaining, and rescuing are not separate jobs as a missionary -- it´s all one and it´s important to keep that perspective!

Oh man, overall a super emotional weekend but my heart is so full of love and gratitude for Piura Central and Hna Christianson, as well as my new area here in Talara with Hna Shumway!! 

I´ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord, and I´ll be what you want me to be.

Hermana Parks
El Obispo and his family

Los Pacheco

I´ll never forget being in those crambed combis and saying ¨baja la rumba!¨ then getting off and walking through the sand to appts! Ahhhh la legua has my heart

Jefferson, Ximena, Martha, Cinthia, and all the little ones!! My favorite memory of Piura Central is their family! (some not pictured)

Miriam our pensionista and her sweet family! (investigators!!!)

Los Rasmussen at the baptism last Saturday

Angeles!! We could´t find her for the past couple weeks because she was living with an aunt but we miraculously ran into her yesterday!!!!!! Such a sweetheart and hopefully she will still be baptized

Love running into my sweet ¨mom¨ Hna Orellana!! She´s rocking it in Paita as a sister leader!

Hna Ortiz and Hna Carrera! After intercambios together

Yulisa and Natalia Pacheco!
Sweet Hna Howell!

Familia Chizan! love them so much!

When we got separated I proclaimed that I hate being a missionary....SO SO SAD!! Probably won´t see here before she leaves!!

The things you see on the street in Peru.  Yes, squirrel on his head.


Man, I'm going to miss this place

Bus ride to sechura (intercambios con la Hna Carrera)

Poetry on the walls

for sure one of my favorite people ever! Hno Henry, recent convert

Jefferson's baptism
Hno Bravo and his wife! Assistant to the ward mission leader but since the ward mission leader is in Lima...basically the ward mission leader. haha

Monday, January 18, 2016

Pday: Sandboarding in the 2nd largest desert in the world?

Yeah this P-day was random, haha. Our zone leaders called us this morning and invited us to their district activity and we were like what the heck! So we drove 2 hours out to Sechura and took a moto taxi out to the middle of nowhere where there is this GIANT sand dune, like seriously the equivalent of Roxyann peak except pure sand, and we went sand boarding! (with President`s permission :) It was so rad! We are sunburnt and tired but super happy we went!

This week we found blessings in all the places we weren`t looking, but nonetheless, they were blessings!

Our goal this week was to find several new, prepared investigators who are going to progress. We started aggressively knocking on doors in La Legua and Piura and we got into TONS of them, but NOTHING happened. All the people we found were content with their own religion, didn`t understand The Restoration and/or didn`t want to change, or had some kind of difficulty with work/family where they would never be able to attend church Sundays. 

FRUSTRATION. At one point I sat down on the curb a little exasperated while Hna C made a phone call and opened up my eyes fell on Alma 30:17 which is Korihor`s (the anti-Christ`s) teachings about how every man can conquer according to his own strength and genius and skill. Ouch. So we re-aligned our focus and started asking Heavenly Father how HE wanted us to find new investigators. 

And then, we experienced a serious miracle with la familia Valles! We were able to find another of Jefferson`s aunts who told us that she wants to change her lives and be a better mom....she (cynthia) and her daughter Ximena now have a baptismal date! 

But that`s not all...we came upon a woman carrying water jugs in la legua and helped her carry them to her house. She invited us in to listen to our message (along with her 47 chickens, bunnies, and puppies in a one-room house) so we sat down on upside down buckets and taught her! She and her nephew came to church on Sunday
So after a rough start to the week we ended up having 13 investigators at church, about half of which are progressing. That was definitely not us -- The Lord was physically guiding us to those we needed to talk to and the streets where we needed to go. 

Other highlights were intercambios with Hna Howell in Catacaos (she`s from Idaho and we came to the field the same day! -- even though she was in the CCM 6 weeks). She radiates with the Spirit and it was by far my favorite intercambio thus far! 
Chicha morada is definitely my favorite drink here and apparently you can only find or make it in Peru! Made from purple corn...look it up! And the sunsets this week were unreal. 

I`ve been focusing on gratitude lately and writing 3 things each night as my ¨Attitude of Gratitude¨and it has totally made me happier, more hopeful, and positive! 

That`s all for now!
Hermana Parks
Con la Hna Howell

Sandboarding with the zone

Feeling like little kids with our pulp juice - way popular here

La Legua

silly faces with Sophia!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Piura Central week 4

So Northern Peru / Piura is known for 3 things: Beautiful beaches (apparently some of the best surfing in the world??), ridiculously good ceviche, and being SUPER CALIENTE. 
Andd as missionaries we get to enjoy the last one of those :) But it`s all good because I have now come to understand what Isaiah meant by the ¨furnace of affliction¨, haha.
One day this week we were walking in La Legua at about 3pm (picture the Survivor show sahara desert edition) and we were literally the only human beings outside within a square mile. By about4pm I had finished my water we were walking to our next appt and I was calculating in my head how much it`s going to cost to buy a cold water bottle every afternoon for the rest of the summer here, and then as we sat down to teach Jefferson, HERMANO MIGUEL GAVE US COLD WATER BOTTLES! This is the family that has trouble paying for the bus to come to church and their dad went to buy us cold water! It was the best tender mercy ever :) 
The same day I read this more than appropriate scripture in 1 Nephi:

¨ They shall not hunger nor thirst, neither shall the heat nor the sun smite them: for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them.¨

This week we had intercambios with the Enace hermanas! I was with Hna Gutierrez from Buenos Aires! My fav moment of the day was that night when we taught a recent convert family of 6 kids under the age of 12. I have never seen happiness radiate so brightly from a family. It`s incredible to see the gospel bless the lives of others! 

While there, Hna Christianson w/ Hna Atencio (from my CCM group!) had a breakthrough with one of our investigators AND pensionista, Hna Miriam! Her husband was murdered about 10 years ago and she has raised her kids completely solo. Her daughter Cecilia was baptized this year and we finally figured out why she has been holding off on baptism (her other son Sebastian is super Catholic so she doesn`t want to ¨pick between her kids¨so to speak, and she feels like she hasn`t received her answer yet). Miriam is one of my favorite people here and we`re excited to continue helping her to increase her faith. 

This week I gained a testimony of REFERENCES as well as fasting:
- On Sunday last week we fasted and prayed to find a prepared (& married!) family. On Mondayour prayers were answered! We visited la fam. Sosa Campos with Hna Gloria Chizan (who gave us the reference...they are neighbors). This family is seriously the greatest! 1. they are married, 2. they are SO unified and just such GOOD people, and 3. they `don``t go to any church and are excited to learn about the gospel! We were so so happy! They have 3 kids ages 12, 9, and 4. 

- We are now teaching Jefferson`s aunt Martha (his aunt but she is younger than him....haha it`s not that uncommon here) She`s 16 and quite but very genuine. Her mom has been less active for years and she has never really learned about the church until now. She came to church and our youth did a great job fellowshipping her! Yay references!

- And last but not least, la familia Cordoba Bartollini is on a ROLL with missionary work! They hold a noche de hogar EVERY Sunday night and invite non member friends. We are now teaching one of their friends, Hans who`s 19. 

With this new area and calling I`ve  had the opportunity to learn more about the organization and leadership in the church with respect to missionary work. Hna C and I were invited to a meeting with the stake president, zone leaders, and Pres Rasmussen this week. We analyzed the stake`s efforts last year and set goals for the coming year. Then on Sunday we were invited to another mtg with our high priest counselor and a member of the stake presidency and our ward mission leader...which was mostly to burn our WML and get him to magnify his calling, but also to put our ward mission plan into action. Something the counselor in the stake presidency said really hit me:
¨The 3 most important people in a ward are the bishop, the ward mission leader, and the secretary. In that order.¨ 
Whoa. But isn`t that so true?? Missionary work is not just a side-dish on a ward`s plate of responsibilities and activities. It IS the plate. (that`s my own analogy, haha) 

I love what Joseph Smith said: ¨After all that has been said, the greatest and most important duty is to preach the gospel.¨ 

I am so grateful to be a part of this great and MARVELOUS work to share the gospel! 
Hermana Parks 
Hna Gutierrez posted this on her wall

With Hna Gutierrez from Buenos Aires

Kids in the Enace area

Mototaxi selfie

contacting menos activos in a ward

Familia Bartollini

Monday, January 4, 2016

Piura Central, continuado

So this week was suuuuper challenging and Hna Christianson and I are still trying to figure out why... but I`m staying positive because I ended up having a great experience in Ignacio despite not having much to work with in the beginning. 

Anyways, problema numero uno from PC is MARRIAGE. We are currently teaching 5 families who aren`t married, 4 of which have been investigating for a significant amount of time -- Familias Valles, Zeta, Rocio and her kids, and familia Pacheco. Luckily Familia Valles and Pacheco are making headway on their marriage papers (side note-- getting married in Peru is SO complicated! It`s annoying). Familia Pacheco should be baptized this month for sure. Rocio`s husband is completely against the missionaries and according to Hna C we`ve barely seen him that might take a little work. It`s just SO sad because she and her kids are at church every single week and are reading their scriptures and everything. And then Familia Zeta has two kids who have been baptized, Rosita is the leader of the young adults and Christian is primary age. Their dad Pablo has to go through a divorce before he gets married to Mercedes. And then last but not least, Familia Abad are the ones we just found and literally I wanted to cry when Magali told us they aren`t married. UGH. My patience is being tried in this area... but let`s look at the positives this week!

Angeles (age 18, Magali`s daughter) has a baptismal date! She is amazing. She comes from tough conditions and both her grandma and mom were pregnant by age 15. She told us that she`s determined not to take the same path. After teaching her the Restoration the first time, she told us that she went to her room directly afterwards to pray to know if Joseph Smith was a prophet and felt peace. She is so eager to participate in activities and is becoming friends with Rosita Zeta! WE LOVE HER. 

Jefferson is progressing super well. He said that since he`s been meeting with us he gets angry less often, which used to be a weakness for him. The only bummer was that he couldn`t come to church! When we passed by that afternoon he said that his family didn`t have enough money to come. (The bus is 2 soles per person in total, there and back, which is about 66 cents in the US) They are really really poor. We will make sure that doesn`t happen again :(

We had intercambios this week with las hermanas de Los Ficus! I went over to their area with Hna Sandison. That girl is seriously the greatest example to me. She was baptized just over a year ago (from Twin Falls ID). Her mom is waaay Catholic, her dad is Christian, her sister is Atheist, and they show her anti-mormon stuff all the time but she is SO STRONG. I feel like I learned way more from her than she could`ve learned from me that day. 

WHILE we were there, Hna Christianson and Hna Mitchell were knocking on a door in our area when a man opened and said ¨We`ve been waiting for you!! Come on in!!¨ They were sooo confused until he explained that we had contacted his wife one Monday in Plaza Vea and she had told her whole family about it! Ricardo was investigating the church as a teenager and they are super eager to learn more!! WOO HOO!! I`m grateful for Hna C for teaching me to contact ALL THE TIME AND EVERYONE, even P days. 

For New Years our recent convert Hno Henry brought us dinner (he is seriously hilarious and one of my fav people). The next day we walked by piles of ashes in the streets because here in Peru they have the tradition to burn a giant straw doll at midnight! Haha, pretty crazy. 

In district mtg this week we learned about SIMPLIFYING the way we teach The Restoration. This is such an important principle.
It goes right along with Elder Uchtdorf`s talk from last conference. He says somethign along the lines of: Äre we making our discipleship too complicated? The gospel of Jesus Christ is simple enough that even a child can understand and live it. 
During my mission it`s like the basic principles of the gospel have been further ingrained in my heart and my love for them has deepened signficantly.

I know our Heavenly Father loves us.
He has a plan for us.
Jesus Christ has restored His Church on the earth through the prophet Joseph Smith.
The Book of Mormon is the word of God.

Of these things I know to be true!!
Hermana Parks 
Intercambios with Hna Sandison, a little sunburnt

The bamboo used to construct houses in La Legua

Going running on New Years Day

District meeting with missionaries from Texas, Arizona, Lima, and Oregon (Elder Williams is from near Salem... we are the only missionaries from Oregon in the mission!)