Observation: the Peruvian men seldom wear facial hair, which has been a recent fad in the US; it has also been a tradition for as long as I can remember for men from Mexico to wear a moustache.
For Family Home Evening (FHE)[i] Monday, we met with about 10 other couples at the Area offices, where the Henrie’s (from Albuquerque)[ii] shared their experiences serving as humanitarian missionaries. One project they are working on is coordinating the donation of over 1100 wheelchairs to those crippled by various diseases. Some are victims of polio and are my age; it took a while for the vaccine to reach the remote areas of the country at the time when I was being vaccinated as a child. Another project was helping with the cleanup efforts after the mudslides and flooding in Peru a couple of months ago. Because of those efforts, the president of Peru[iii] arranged for a video call to President Henry B. Eyring,[iv] of the First Presidency, to personally thank the Church for its cleanup efforts. Some of the local Church leaders were also present for this call. Another project was drilling wells in remote villages in Peru. The village is required to have a local council that makes decisions about how to repair and maintain the system and distribute the water. Everyone is required to purchase their water, with fees determined by the village council. It was amazing to see the end results of the generosity of individual Church members who donated often just a few dollars here and there to the Humanitarian Aid Fund.[v] It was also encouraging to see the efforts of the Church leadership to help people with their needs, but in a way that is sustainable and does not create chronic dependence. For example, rather than just “playing Santa Claus” and giving wheelchairs to those in need, they worked with local organizations who would make sure the chairs fit the patient, that the patients know how to use them properly and that there were people trained to repair and maintain the chairs over the long haul.
After FHE, we had taco salad and visited. I was struck (yet again) with the thought, “These are some REALLY good people!” I count it a privilege to be among such good people!
On Tuesday, we helped the full-time missionaries teach a lady in the chapel where we meet. She is in her mid-30’s and is a very sweet single mother with four sons. She understands things quickly and has a huge amount of faith. The next day, the missionaries asked me if I would like to baptize her! She was in favor of that, so I said, “Of course!” We invited them to have lessons at our house on Thursday and Friday; her baptism was yesterday. Three other people (from another ward) were also baptized. The water was cold, but the service was very uplifting.
Afterward, a man in his 60s sat down by Faye and me and said he could tell that we had a special relationship with one another. When we were in the Mission Training Center (MTC)[vi] in Provo, Utah, that’s something one of our teachers pointed out: that, as senior missionaries, we may be one of the few examples of a stable marriage that the members, investigators and even missionaries will have seen. That was humbling to think of, especially as I acknowledge my weaknesses as a husband. It was humbling again to have someone here in Peru mention that. This Peruvian man was baptized in May 1975, just a month or two before my brother, Young, completed his mission; he didn’t know Young, though.
As we were walking home from the lesson with the investigator Tuesday, all three of us felt something wet land on us (I felt it on my right shoulder; Faye’s was on her foot). At the same instant, I saw white drops appear on the sidewalk where we were. Yep! We looked up and saw a bird flying overhead that had just pooped on us! “Thanks, buddy, for the friendly welcome to Peru!” For some reason, it reminded me of a silly song I used to sing as a young teen, “May the bird of paradise fly up your nose! May an elephant caress you with his toes…(I don’t remember the rest of it).”
On Wednesday, I trained a registered nurse (RN)/sister missionary in the MTC here in Lima. She will go to another city in Peru when she leaves the MTC. There is another RN/sister missionary in Bolivia that I will train via phone conference starting this week. They will both be great assets to the missionaries and mission presidents (and wives) there. I look forward to working with them.
I decided to take some of my white shirts to a cleaning place to have them pressed; they did an awesome job! It’s amazing how much better a small thing like that makes me feel; last Sunday I wore a wrinkled shirt and I felt grumpy. Faye is going to try something different to see if the shirts will come out of the dryer unwrinkled…so I don’t have to take them to be pressed. I could iron them myself, but I just didn’t feel like it last week.
On Thursday, a young American couple who have lived in Peru for 10 years took another missionary and me (and our wives) shopping to a place called Gamarra[vii] to get fitted for custom suits. It was quite congested, dirty and smelly. It reminded me of Diagon Alley[viii] in some places. We stayed close together and stayed vigilant because it’s apparently a place where thieves look for unsuspecting targets. It was quite an adventure! I should have the suit in about 10 days.
After shopping we ate lunch at an Italian restaurant across the street from the Area offices. It was excellent!
On Friday, we met with the Lima Temple President Gillespie[ix], who asked me to help in the temple, mainly to help when there are English-speakers who need help. Afterward, we walked on the temple grounds. We heard some noisy birds in a nearby pecan tree (I was surprised to find one in Peru, but I’m pretty sure it was pecan): there were about a dozen parrots there, noisily fighting over the pecans! While we were there on the lawn, a man approached us; we thought he might tell us to get off the grass. Turns out he was visiting from Brazil and just wanted to chat with us. He knew Elder Godoy,[x] who is also from Brazil. We had a nice, brief visit, partly in English, partly in Spanish.
After that, we saw a woman with her 15-month-old son, trying to take selfies while she held him. Faye felt like she should ask if she could help take their picture, which she did. We chatted with her and she told us she was there (partly) because her husband has become disaffected with the Church: he has read some stuff on the internet about the Book of Mormon.[xi] She wanted to know what she could do to help him. I hope what I said was helpful: “Sister, he will need to make his own choices. However, you can love him and you can keep your covenants.[xii] Those are the best things you can do to help him.” I told her we would pray for both of them. She seems like a very good woman who took her concerns to the right place: the temple…in a spirit of prayer[xiii] and fasting.[xiv]
We were going to take some bus tours yesterday, but I had to make some phone calls and send emails about missionaries with various health problems. I spoke with several specialists in the US: a urologist, a psychiatrist, a gynecologist, an endocrinologist, and a gastroenterologist. They were all very helpful. I also took a luscious hour-long nap! Nice!
Today’s meetings were nice. For some reason, I have been feeling a little melancholic over Ashton. As I was reading the scriptures this morning and during a talk in Sacrament Meeting[xv] and the Sunday School lesson, I had some thoughts and feelings I’d like to share:
- Mosiah 24:13-16[xvi] “And…the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me [as they covenanted to bear one another’s burdens in Mosiah 18:8-10[xvii], the Lord was another party to the covenant and promised to ease their own burdens] and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage. And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions. And…the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord. And…so great was their faith and their patience that the voice of the Lord came unto them again, saying: Be of good comfort, for on the morrow I will deliver you out of bondage.” My take-home message: As Faye and I serve with all our heart, might, mind and strength here in Peru, I have faith that the Lord will (and has greatly already) ease the grief I have felt from Ashton’s death.
- Moses 7:39[xviii] “And that which I have chosen [Christ] hath pled before my face…” What comfort it gives me to know that Christ is and will be my (and Ashton’s) Advocate with the Father. There is no one else I would rather have as my (and Ashton’s) “lawyer” in the Divine Courts.
- John 12:24[xix] “…Except a [grain] of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” Elder Holland taught about this when he was here in January: God specializes in “broken” things: the clouds are broken to release rain; the ground is broken to plant a seed; a seed is broken so a plant can grow; wheat is broken to make flour; bread is broken so we can partake of the sacrament. My heart is broken to bring me to my Savior’s Healing Hand. It’s excruciating at times, but I’m so grateful that there is One to whom I can turn for healing. The Sunday School lesson was on the Plan of Salvation. One question the teacher asked was, “What does the knowledge of the Plan of Salvation do for you?” I thought to myself what an anchor the Plan of Salvation is: it brings me inexplicable comfort during grief. It provides an unshakable rock and foundation upon which I can build my life, hopes and dreams during the storms and turbulent times of life. It is an iron rod to which I can hold fast. I can’t imagine my life without Christ’s Atonement, which makes possible the Father’s Plan of Salvation.
- Isaiah 61:1[xx] “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.” Again, what comfort to know that Christ binds up my broken heart. I don’t know exactly how Ashton has or will be judged, but I take comfort in knowing that he will be judged by the Only Perfect Judge, who is full of Mercy and Longsuffering and Perfect Love. He is Ashton’s Creator; He knows Ashton’s heart and mind. I trust Him. I am filled with gratitude and tears with these thoughts. Thanks for letting me share them with you.
Written by Carter