November 9, 2013

What a Wonderful Week (November 4, 2013)

First off, BAPTISM!!!! Yes, the third baptism I have been involved in during my mission here in Perú, but more exciting, my first baptism where I baptized the person! So, the young guy who I got to baptize was a boy named, "Manuel." I haven’t written much about him due to time restraints in the past, but he is the one who we had the lesson with the many kids from off the street with (and in fact this week we had the biggest lesson yet as 8 niños joined in on one of our lessons). He is the youngest member of a family who are all members of the Church, but are not attending services currently. However, even though he is the youngest he has the biggest testimony. From Day 1, he bore his testimony of the Book of Mormon and the divinity of it, and he shook both my companion and me to our cores. He is a lot like Nephi (the first writer in the Book of Mormon) in that even though he is the youngest in the family, he has a testimony big enough to fill the whole house! He is a fantastic young man, and after his baptismal interview, he said that he wanted Elder Rich to baptize him. So, I had the wonderful privelege of baptizing Hermano Manuel and helping him begin a life as a disciple of Jesus Christ. What an amazing experience! I wish I could share the experience with everyone back home, but words really can´t describe it as well as I would like. Anyways, it was a wonderful experience, and Manuel is now officially a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

On a different note, here in Perú Halloween is not as big as it is in the States...or even really that similar. The more important celebration is el día de los muertos on the first and second of November, so the 31st of October is just another night in essence. Thus, the Church here in Tumbes decided to hold a Missionary Night in the stake center of Tumbes for people to learn more about the church. So, naturally we went to help teach people, and as we walked in, the zone leaders pulled me into the bathroom, threw some colorful scarves and robes around me, and told me I would be acting in the show there. So, long story short, I played the part of an angry citizen during the preaching of Korihor (full story: Alma chapter 30 in the Book of Mormon), and I got to exclaim with all of my acting power and wisdom the truly moving line: "Usted esta enseñado falsas doctrinas!" (“You are teaching false doctrines!”) You had to have seen it...people were moved to tears. Maybe they were tears of laughter, I can’t tell, but either way it was quite fun. If I get pictures of this, I will send them home, but I am sure the picture in your mind is pretty close to what it was.

Anyways, sorry for a not super long letter this week. Much to do and little time to do it! Thanks to everyone and I hope everyone is enjoying their new month of November! Love to all and know that my prayers are with everyone back home.

Sincerely,
Elder Dax Rich

October at its End (October 28, 2013)

As the leaves start to fall and as the children begin to put on their sweaters back home, dreaming of the candy they will get on Halloween, I am getting a #2 haircut (yes, that short), and preparing for the heat wave of November. Different worlds indeed! But, that is why it is all exciting in the end!

So this week was the continuation of the month long celebration of Jesus Christ for Catholics here in Peru. Or, more specifically, the celebration of El Señor de los Milagros. This week there was a parade every night throughout all of the town where at least 500 Catholics crowded the streets and made walking literally impossible. It was quite interesting, yet a little unwanted as we were late to everything because of it. But, it is nice that people want to praise Christ. It was also fun because during the parade, a group of guys who we played futbol with in the past saw us and started yelling out (and then chanting) "Rich!!!" I laughed and had quite a good time this week. 

Speaking of the people, we also met a man who (besides being insanely drunk) said he was from Utah and that he was Mormon. But, he said all of this in perfect English. I was very much impressed, and had the situation not been as extremely dangerous as it was (because literally...this guy was just wasted), I would have liked to stayed and chatted about Utah with him and his life as a Mormon. Perhaps another day.

This week we also decided to be adventurous, and so we went to a restaurant called "Happy Chicken" to purchase and devour "pollo a la brasa." (It is basically grilled chicken breast with great spices) It was quite pricey, but it was also super delicious and I got to try 3 new Peruvian sauces made specifically for french fries and chicken: a ranch sauce, a spicy cream sauce, and some weird red sauce that was just...different. I can´t explain it much better, I apologize. 

In terms of our work this week, we also had some interesting lessons. First off, we had a lesson right outside of our door. Since we are teaching a young man who lives in our building, we went onto the roof (where our room/house is), pulled out three chairs from our house and had a lesson right there.  It was quite unique but also quite rewarding as this young man has such a great love for God and everyone in the world. He prayed for at least 5 minutes for everyone suffering in the world and everyone who did not know God so that they could be blessed with the knowledge that they have a father in the heavens who loves them and wants them to have the knowledge that he exists. It was moving and powerful, and he really is an amazing man. We have a baptism date set for him for 2 weeks from now, so we will see if things work out for him! We also are teaching a young boy of 9 years and so for a lesson this week we invited some members (2 9 year olds) to help out. Well, they came and brought 2 more 9 year olds from off the street. Literally just 2 random kids (named Jesús and Cristian ((Jesus Christ, go figure!)). Anyways, the lesson became a lesson for 5 9 year olds and we then committed all of them to sharing the lesson with their families, and so besides playing babysitter, we also indirectly taught 5 different families. Success indeed! 

Well, that has been about it for this week (and for time!). Hope all is going well with everyone back home! You are all in my prayers and I hope you are feeling blessings in your lives in some form or another! God truly does want us to be happy and he really does bless us everyday, we just need to look for those blessings and gives thanks...and then we get more! It is crazy how that works, but it is true too. We have a loving Heavenly Father (un amoroso Padre Celestial).

As a last note, a special shout out to Brynly: Feliz Cumpleaños, mi hermanita!!!! 

Mucho amor y muchos oraciones,

Elder Dax Rich

Octubre/ October Fun (10/21/2013)

The month keeps moving on and so does the work here. We have been working hard with not active members of the church here and we have had some success as well as fun stories to share. First off, we were very blessed to have a man who hasn´t gone to church in 9 years return this week after many weeks of working with him and inviting him to come back. It was truly amazing and the meeting was just so much more powerful to have this man back in attendance. 

But, as I indicated in the beginning, we have also had some interesting experiences during our work this week. We have been trying to find people to teach so we did a lot of door-to-door preaching this week and we had some great experiences of how people try to Dodge "The Missionaries." One lady saw us from her window and when she saw us walking towards her house she ducked down and lifted up her daughter to the window to talk with us and tell us that her mother was not home. We couldn´t help but laugh as we said "Gracias" and walked away. We always knocked on a window and a man stood up and asked who it was, and when we introduced ourselves as the missionaries, he shot back into his seat, turned on his TV, cranked up the volume, and pretended that he never Heard us. We just laughed again and walked away. The other story worth sharing was one where we met a man who asked us who our best friend in the world was. To this I said "Bueno...Jesucristo." But the man just wouldn´t take that for an answer and so he said again his question, to which my companion and I looked at each other and said "Jesucristo." Well the man had the answer to our question and he said (In Español) "No, Mary is my best friend." (Mary the mother of Jesús Christ). So, to say the least, it was an interesting week for meeting new people.

Oh, more on culture: If you want to visit Perú and be on the in crowd, you need to love Ben 10. I swear, Ben 10 is everywhere and on everything, even on things you wouldn´t expect like store Windows, bikes, and graduation diplomas. Ben 10 is the hero of Perú. Also, the big shows here are "Este es Guerra" and "Combate." Literally everyone watches one or the other, or both. It is quite funny. Also, everyone here is a lot younger than  you would think. I have been asked to guess ages of people here and have been wrong everytime. Girls that you think are 17 are really 13, girls that look 24 are actually 19, and even the 8 year olds look like they are 12. I have felt quite Young many times here hahaha. Also, the two coolest animals that I see here are iguanas and (less common) monkeys. We were walking a week ago and passed a monkey running on the rooftops and we were both very excited (My companion and I). Apparently the university here in Pampa Grande is home to 4 wild monkeys as I learned this week so there´s that! Also, fun fact: Peruvians speak castellano, a dialect of Español, which really is the most pure form of Spanish since it doesn´t have the lisp or weird changes, and apparently Perú speaks castellano the best, so I am quite excited to say soon that I am fluent in the Spanish dialect of castellano! Good times.

In other news, this week I am going to get a cooking lesson in order to learn to cook the most rica comida in Tumbes: ceviche. Basically it is raw fish with seasonings, and I am actually not suppossed to eat it (rule of the misión) but I am going to learn to prepare it so that I can make the dish when I get home. I am very excited for this! Also, this past Sunday I gave a 15 minute talk in Sacrament Meeting again, and then right after gave a 45 minute lesson all on my own so basically I rocked the world of Spanish this past Sunday. I felt quite accomplished.

Anyways, that is about it for this week. I hope all is going well for everyone! I am quite jealous of the cool weather back home, and if anyone wants some more sun, just let me know and I´ll send you some (trust me, I have PLENTY to share). Thanks, everyone, for Reading and keeping up with the marvellous adventures of Elder Rich in Perú!

Sincerely,
Elder Dax Rich

Day In The Life (October 14, 2013)

So today I wanted to share some everyday facts about life here for me, because it is a rather different experience living and serving in Tumbes, Perú.  But first off, I wanted to share an interesting little event that apparently happens every three to four months called "Simulacro." In this event, hospitals bring out their patients into the street to wait for ambulances to transport them to other places (the normal routine) but the people in the town are asked to help. So, there is a marked circle literally in the middle of the road for the people to stand as a protection for these patients from muggers/robbers/drunks/etc. I got the wonderful opportunity to stand in one of these circles and give a public service of protecting a hospital patient. It was interesting indeed (uneventful, but interesting).

Okay, now for the common stuff. My day begins at 6:30 like every other missionary and I get up, pray with my companion, and then exercise. I then eat a very structured breakfast of cereal (generally corn flakes) with a fruity flavored yogurt instead of milk. I also enjoy a delicious side of bread with strawberry marmalade and sometimes even a banana. I then study personally for an hour, then with my companion for 2 hours, and then we go out to teach generally one lesson before lunch. We then go to lunch at a sister`s house in the ward (the same sister everyday except for Saturday and Sunday). Afterwards, is an hour of Spanish study and then teaching from 3 p.m. until generally 9 p.m. We then go back, plan, eat a very small dinner (I usually eat an orange, ramen, or if we actually have enough time soup with a little pasta) and go to bed.

Throughout the day, we walk 50% on dirt and 50% on pavement, so it is hard to stay clean/smell good, but we do the best we can. We also walk everywhere, unless we need to go into the city or go to the church quickly because we are super late in which cases we take a motorcar. I love these because the people like to rip me off, because they think Gringos are slow in the head, so they try to charge me double the cost and I just shake my head, start walking away, and they quickly cut the price down to be more realistic. It is always an adventure with them. It is hard though to know where to go because there are no street signs, and generally houses do not have numbers (because a lot of houses are made of wood, mud, or not very ordinary materials). All houses are generally one story and if there is a second story, it is generally another house. Houses also are generally one room with a curtain divinding it up, so the bathroom is techincally in the same room as the bedrooms, the kitchen, and the living room. It is quite lovely to hear people using the bathroom when you go into a house.

Sacrament Meeting every Sunday is interesting too. It is in the building adjacent to the actual church house, because the church house is so small, so we walk between buildings for the meetings. The sacrament meeting room is also unique because it is full of large pillars, so literally only one full row has the ability to see the speaker. You just have to know where to sit to get the chance to see the speaker.

We also go to an internet cafe every Monday for emailing. It is 2 soles to email home and we are all crammed next to each other on different computers, but it`s an adventure too.

Food. First off, we can`t eat strawberries, pork, lettuce, or raw fish. So, I usually look for things flavored strawberry. It is great fun. Meals here always consist of beans, rice (white, or yellow), meat (chicken, beef, or fish), onions, potatoes (in french fry, mashed, or cube forms), and a sauce (generally a cheese or a green sauce). However, we sometimes get pasta, soup (the best is banana soup) and fried plátanos. We also can`t drink the water, so we always get a juice for lunch, and the juices are always spot on. They are super fruity, super sweet, and the only problem with them is there is never enough. Overall though, the food is really good and as different as it is, it isn`t horribly different from the food back in the States.

More or less, that`s about it for the everyday stuff. I hope that helps give a picture of life here!

I also was reading in the book of Judges in the Bible yesterday and I found a good quote from my Mom back when I was in Seminary and I thought it was pretty strong and worth sharing here, so I would like to share it. It is a quote from James E. Faust about the man named Gideon in the book of Judges and the quote is about Gideon when he was asked to do something that seemed quite impossible. The quote says: "The Lord can do remarkable miracles with a person of ordinary ability who is humble, faithful, and diligent in serving the Lord and seeks to improve himself. This is because God is the ultimate source of power." I testify that this is true. I see people here doing amazing things and totally changing their lives when they do these things and trust in the Lord. For example, one guy here was a heavy drug addict and drinker, but after he learned about this message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, he humbled himself, put his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and sought to totally change himself...to which he did! He serves faithfully in the ward here and he is a real example for us.

Anyways, hope all is going well with everyone and my prayers are with you all! Thanks everyone!

- Elder Dax Rich