Monday, June 24, 2013

Hola familia!‏

So we are doing great here.  This week has been so busy. I felt like I haven't had much time to think so I apologize if my thoughts are a little all over the place. I had so many happy moments this week.

The reason I am writing late is because President Ardila came to Huancayo and we had a huge meeting with him this morning. Things will be crazy this week because the mission is splitting. We have a big celebration here on Saturday to welcome the new president for the Huancayo mission. We will have a big program and dancing and all sorts of fun stuff. I'm getting ready to meet my third mission president thus far in my mission even though I've only been out three months. I also heard that I might have to make another trip to Lima this week to get an equivalent of a green card. I hope that is not the case but we will see.

Although we understand the importance of this rule, being home on time is the one that we are always so close to breaking. There is just so much to do and so little time and it seems like we are always teaching right down to the very last minute. One night this week we really cut it close. My companion and I both knew what time it was, got out of the lesson as soon as we could and as soon as the family shut the door my companion and I started full out sprinting. We ran three blocks to find a moto and arrived home with only 7 seconds to spare. Not quite the last second but pretty close. 

One of the great highlights of this week was that we taught two good families whose parents were married. This is a huge miracle. We have great hope for baptism with them. The hardest trial to overcome at this time is helping people get to church. Everyone works on Sundays, actually all the time. There are many who are reading the Book of Mormon, praying and progressing in the gospel but have a hard time getting to church and it is keeping them from baptism. My companion and I are making this a focus for this next week to help improve it. This week at church I spoke in church and helped teach primary which was really fun. Peruvian kids are so cute. 

I was stopped by a man in a dark back street this week that asked for money. For some reason I wasn't scared. After we told him we didn't have money on us, the man pulled out a grocery bag full of cocaine. We talked with him for a moment, told him who we were and invited him to come to Christ. As missionaries we invite all people to come unto Christ.

Everyone in their letters asks me about food so I will say a little bit about food. There are a few plates that I love, I don't remember their names at this moment, nor would I know how to spell them but they are pretty great and I want to learn how to make them before I leave Peru. My pensionista also regularly makes papaya, banana smoothie things in the morning that are wonderful. I also ate guinea pig yesterday. I didn't find out until after I ate it what it was because they had it mixed in pretty good but I didn't think it was that great. The people here think it is wonderful and the family that lives below us raises them to eat. I'm already getting sick of white rice. Usually about half of the plate of every meal is rice. I've started mixing it with whatever I can find to make it a little more bearable, ketchup, mustard, strawberry jam anything really.

One of the hardest transitions for me was that everything they drink here is hot. Hot milk, juice, jello, everything is hot. I really do love manzanilla, its a herbal drink and it tastes like drinking flowers. The jello here is clear and is the consistency of hair gel. It actually looks like you are eating hair gel. This week one of the greatest moments of my week was getting a jug of drinking water that was room temperature. I'm pretty sure I drank 12 glasses straight.

My letter wouldn't be complete with out a dog story so here goes. Keep in mind that most of the dogs here are really calm and we just pass them on the street. However there is one that lives with one of our investigators that really doesn't like us. He sees us coming from all the way down the street and starts running and barking at us. We always bring some sort of bribery for him so that we can get into the little path way between two mud walls that leads to their home. This week one of the times we visited this dog was especially mad and we used all our bribery to get to her home and she wasn't there. The dog had sat down in the middle of the three foot walkway and wasn't planning on moving. After a few attempts we decided to say a prayer. The literal words my companion used as she prayed were that the dog would arise and we would pass by without problems. About one minute after the prayer a man who lived in the area rode up on his bike, picked up the dog and we walked past without any problems. God is looking out for us.

This last experience that I had this week is my favorite. We found a guy in Peru that didn't believe in God. My first one that I have come in contact with. We started teaching him and we could feel really quickly that he thought we were young and that his intention was to prove us wrong. Our conversation went very similar to Corihor in the Book of Mormon. He strongly believed in science and when I told him I graduated in science he was a little caught off guard. I bore powerful testimony to him that we have a God who lives and that he is our father. If there is anything in this world that I know it is that God lives. He is real. We decided we wouldn't spend much time with him because we didn't want to argue so we were bold and bore our testimonies and left. During the course of our conversation baptism came up for a brief moment and we invited him to come to one on Saturday at the church. I think the greatest miracle of my mission thus far was turning around to see this man in the church as the baptism was about to start. After the baptism we taught him about the plan of salvation in the church and we could tell that his heart had been softened because he asked sincere questions. He told us that he felt good after the lesson. It was incredible and a huge miracle.

All is well here. I appreciate everyone's letters and emails. Thanks for all your support and prayers. I feel them as I teach more than ever. Have a great week everyone!

Hermana Rhoten

Monday, June 17, 2013

Hola familia! And happy fathers day yesterday to my wonderful father.

This week was great with some unexpected twists. We are still working so hard because there is so much work to be done here. We got fourteen new investigators this week that we feel pretty good about, taught a zillion lessons and in our spare time were able to street contact a hundred people. I lay down in bed every night exhausted but somehow I am blessed with the energy to wake up and do it all over again the next day. 
My pensionista (cook) & one of her daughters
My working hard was interrupted by two things this week. First was I got sick, it had to happen sometime. We were invited over to a members house for lunch one day. The way the house was set up was three separate small buildings, the living area, an outhouse and a cooking hut in that order on a slight hill. The cooking hut had rocks set up with bricks and metal sheets to put the pans on to cook and was surrounded by tons of rotting food. We watched the family move all the animals out of the hut and we were then invited to come and sit down at the table to eat. There was a swarm of flies over the table and all over the food. My companion and I tried our best to get the food down without swallowing a fly or throwing it up. Dad wouldn't have been able to handle it. Needless to say the rest of the day I was pretty worthless. In the middle of my misery I got a call from our zone leaders saying that I had a bus ticket to travel to Lima tonight so that I could meet with immigrations the next day. I knew in the condition I was in that I wouldn't be able to make an 8 hour bus trip so I asked for a priesthood blessing. The blessing was one of the most special blessings I have had in my life. To me, the miracle wasn't in how quickly the sickness went away although that was an incredible miracle in and of itself. The greatest miracle was that although the blessing was in Spanish I understood all of it so clearly. I understood that blessing better than any Spanish that I had thus far on my mission. They finished the blessing I was in awe at what had just been communicated to me.
My companion & I collapsed after a hard working day.

My second interruption was my trip to Lima. It was a quick trip. I rode a bus all night and then the next night rode it all the way back to Huancuyo. In the morning we were picked up and taken to the temple and showered. I then went to the hospital to be with a sister who had just had a surgery so that her companion could shower and get things that she needed. When we got back we spent a lot of time with the mission president and his wife. He is such a wise man and I learned so much from him. He has either been a bishop, or stake president since the year after he was married. We then met with immigrations for about two hours while they examined our teeth, fingerprinted us and took our pictures. There were lots of missionaries there from many different missions. Hermana Johnson and Craig were there and it was awesome to spend some time with them. They were each really struggling adapting to Peru, and I was able to boost them up and help them be more excited for their missions.
Hermana Johnson & Craig in Lima

There was another great miracle that happened in our mission this week. There was an Elder who was known as the most obedient missionary in all the mission who was finishing his mission and heading home. He was on a bus a few hours before me on the same highway alone when the bus was hit by a gas truck. The bus caught on fire and 7 people died. The Elder was sitting in the bottom of the bus where the truck made contact and everyone around him died including the man sitting next to him. The Elder walked out of the bus alive with a small bruise on his face and a bruise on his knee. I was able to see him come back from the hospital while getting checked out to the mission home. The mission president told each of us that he was protected because of his obedience and faithful service on his mission. It was a loud reminder that god always watches over those who are obedient. I made a commitment to be more exactly obedient for the rest of my mission.
food don't ask me what it all is cause I'm not sure chicken & something
Here are some random things about my week and things that are happening on the mission. 
My companion and I have mastered the game of guess this word that I am thinking of but don't know how to express it to you. We would dominate at catch phrase and charades. 
My English class went great! I love teaching. It was different to have people stare at me blankly for once. 
I have been asked for help reaching tall things for the first time in my life. I'm five four and I have never been considered tall in my life.
I had rice and potato or both in every single meal this week.
My aim with small rocks has gotten much better on the mission. It is not super common for people to answer their doors. More likely we knock really loud and they stick their heads out the window to talk to us. More often we throw pebbles at their windows to get their attention.
I stopped a whole volleyball game the other day just because I walked by. It got quiet and i turned around to see everyone staring at me.
Among the many great experiences and things I am learning I am learning to be a dog tamer. There is a dog that belongs to the people who live below us that hates us. This week after slowly trying to befriend it with food it didn't bark at us today!
view from my apartment
Speaking of dogs, I had a crazy dog experience this week. We were walking down an abandoned street to get to the homes of one of our investigators and all of a sudden angry dogs were running and barking at us from all directions. It was like in beauty and the beast when Belle was in the forest and this pack of wolves came. It was terrifying. We picked up rocks and threw as many as we could. I'm pretty sure I kicked some of them and I know my companion smacked one with her Book of Mormon. We avoid that street now.

One thing I have really come to appreciate about the people here is their love of God. When we stop people in the street and ask them if they believe in God I have never heard someone say no. When we ask if we can come to their home and share a message about Jesus Christ they always say yes. In my setting apart blessing it asked me to find the things that people in Peru do in their culture that are better than those that we in the United  States do. I've thought a lot about that since I have been here and the one conclusion I have come to is that  God is more important to these people than he is to others in the world. Everyone here is very well educated in the Bible and I am learning to love the bible more than I already do. I am always so impressed with children off the street who are so young but that I am able to have intelligent conversations with about God. These children were taught by their mothers and are prepared to hear the gospel. I hope that I can learn from their example and develop a culture like that in my home someday.

Well, all is well on this part of the world. Love you all and talk to you next week.

Hermana Rhoten

Monday, June 10, 2013

I'm in Peru!

This keyboard is different but I will try my best to type quickly. I don't have time to write everything about Peru and what has happened the past week because there is just so much. I will just share with you some of my blessings this week and hope that that will suffice.

The first couple days I got here I was in Lima and we were with the mission president for training. I was assigned to open a brand new area in Huancuyo! This also means that I wont be in the Lima Peru East mission anymore, I will be in the new Huancuyo mission when the missions split in two weeks. I felt like I knew that was coming and had been prepared for it. Nothing thus far on my mission has worked out according to plan, I'm just grateful that my Heavenly Father trusts me enough to change my plans and know that I can be flexible enough to handle any of the changes. My new mission contains all the jungle areas, Huanuco, Huancuyo and the highest city in the world Cerro de Pasco. It will definitely be an adventure. The way my area was first described to me was that it is a missionary paradise. They said in this mission we expect about 20 baptisms a week from each area except for mine they expect much more. The people here are amazing and I am so lucky to be serving here. To give you a quick idea we teach up to 10 lessons  a day, everyone we contact on the street is like yea ill come to church and bring my whole family, and the ward here is on fire. I have never seen anything quite like it. We were given 22 referrals yesterday from the ward and we are working so hard. I am so blessed.

My companion is Hermana Soliz and she is from Bolivia. She is beautiful and we get along great. She has been out on the mission for 9 months. As you probably have guessed she doesn't speak English so I am learning the language as fast as I can. There is no other option than to speak Spanish. Everyone here tells me that my Spanish is really good for only being here a week. My companion says I am about the same as her last American companion that had been here 2 months and that I like to talk more than she did. My companion was serving in Lima and as soon as I finished training we got on a bus and traveled for 9 hours to Huancuyo. I am so blessed to have such an awesome companion.
my companion in our apartment
One of the first things I noticed when I got here was how crazy the drivers are. I am grateful for all the crazy drivers in my life that kinda sorta prepared me for Peruvian driving. They tailgate really bad, spin out and tend to speed up when I think they should probably start breaking. We ride taxis or motos when we can. The blessing of this is that we have set up an appointment with every single taxi driver we have met.

The first few days in Huancuyo we were homeless. We stayed with  two other sisters in their apartment. One is from Mexico, the other from Bolivia. They also didn't speak English. We heated up water in little pitchers that plugged into the wall and would use the water to shower out of a bucket. The sisters always insisted that I go first because I am their baby. I am so grateful I got to meet them because they are so sweet.
I am blessed to be serving in an area of miracles. Here are two that happened recently that I heard when I first got here. One woman who was being taught was 85 years old. Her grandfather was a part of an indigenous people and she said that she remembered sitting around a big fire as a little girl and her grandpa telling stories. One of the stories was about a white haired man who came to the people. She read the story of Christ coming to the Americas in the Book of Mormon and said it was the same story. She was baptized. Another woman told missionaries about a dream that she had had about a white castle. She said her family was inside and happy but she couldn't enter. The missionaries started to teach her about the temple and she was baptized soon after.
me in my

I have come to the conclusion that I might be the only white person with not black hair in the entire city. All the other missionaries in my zone are Latin. I get stared at everywhere I go and they don't try to hide that they are staring at me.The past few days I have been whistled at multiple times, the recipient of cat calls, been blown kisses, and been told that I am beautiful and pretty by random men off the street. When we will be out late or are going to a more scary part of town the sisters would dress me up in a long black trench coat, a hat, leggings and my boots so that as much of my skin and hair is covered as possible. I think I look ridiculous but it definitely helps the staring. I wouldn't normally say this is a good thing but I do have to say that it is awesome when street contacting. I mean the people have stopped whatever they were doing already and have been staring at me the whole way down the street so all I  have to do is smile and start introducing us. When I don't understand what they say, my companion takes over. Its a great system.
There are dogs everywhere here. There is always at least one if not five in my sight. Most of them don't bother us but we were attacked by one. I threw a rock at it. I didn't hit it but I startled it enough for us to run. I am so grateful for all the dogs. They have become my lifeline, my tracking system. Most of the dogs stay in the same areas. The only way I ever know where I am going or where I am is by recognizing familiar dogs. For example, I know that the dalmatian is near our pensionista's home and the big white dog means we are almost home. I thank Heavenly Father for them all the time.
We have a pensionista that cooks all our food. We just come to her house at certain times and its ready. She is so very sweet and so are her daughters. The one who is my age told me that I look like a Barbie and asked if my hair color is real. The food here is very different but its good. Most of the time I can recognize that there is some sort of potato, meat, and rice but sometimes I don't have the slightest idea what I'm eating or drinking. But i just eat it and its usually really good and none of it has made me sick like I was told to expect. I am super lucky.
I have been blessed to learn to rely on the Spirit more this week. I had an experience teaching a lady who was missing a lot of teeth and I didn't understand a word she said. I was prompted to share thoughts and scriptures even though I didn't know what she said and I found out later from my companion that they were exactly what was needed. I am grateful that I am able to completely rely on the spirit.
Sunday was great! I played the piano again because not a single person can play. Everyone was so excited because they don't get to hear the piano very often and everyone told me I played beautifully. We also introduced ourselves in Spanish and bore our testimonies. My companion volunteered us to sing and we sang my favorite hymn, Lead kindly light. She sang the first verse in Spanish and I sang the second in English and then we sang together in Spanish the last one. I think that's the first time I sang a solo since third grade. Never have the words, "I am far from home, lead though me on," hit me so hard as they did then. Oh yea, also I was volunteered to teach English classes for two hours on Wednesday nights for the ward. I have never taught English and I don't know how to teach English but all is well. I have already started writing up a curriculum for it. It will be a wonderful experience.
I feel like the luckiest missionary in all the world. I am so blessed everyday and am loving my mission.
Con amor,
Hermana Rhoten

Monday, June 3, 2013

I'm on my way!‏ I have my visa and I am flying to Peru today!

I am at the mission office right now waiting to be taken to the airport. They said we could email for a few minutes while I am here. I don't know how long I have so I will just start typing.
I found out about my visa on Thursday. We were talking to president about one of our investigators and then at the end of the conversation he said "Well, I'm not very good at keeping secrets. I usually don't like to tell missionaries until they absolutely have to know but Sister Rhoten you have travel plans and you leave on Monday."
It was really difficult for me to leave this area. I wish I could have been here longer. It was especially hard to say goodbye to my investigators. I will miss Kira's baptism by only six days. We had a really frustrating week this week because we just had so many lessons fall through. I think it was something like 14 lessons that were cancelled which is tough. I found out I was leaving and I was so frustrated because I wanted to leave the area better than I found it. Saturday night I asked Heavenly Father if he was pleased with my work in this area. Then Sunday came and it was amazing. It left me feeling confident in my efforts in this area. It was like God showed me everything I had done in one day. We had everyone we had invited to church come. Kira and all three of her girls, Josie and Sulema (Sulema previously didn't like church so I was amazed that she came), Juanita (Recent convert) and Bro Perkins came for the first time. We also had four less active members come that hadn't been to church in over at least a month each of them. In total we had four investigators, four less actives and four of their children. I bore my testimony during fast and testimony meeting.
Josie (the thirteen year old investigator) came up to me after sacrament meeting and told me that she had a surprise for me and invited me to come over after church. When we came over after church she gave me a small gift and a note in an envelope. On the envelope it said "I will miss you always." We followed up with each of them about how they are doing and how they liked church. Sulema said that she liked it much better than before and that she felt calm. Josie had talked about friends she had made and how she was planning to attend girls camp. While we were there I shared with them my favorite chapter in all of the Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 17. I was talking about how Christ was telling the people that it was his time to leave but had compassion on the people and decided to stay. I said Christ is kind of a big deal, he could have easily said I love you but sorry I have to go and left but it was so neat to me that he decided to stay. Josie spoke up and said, "Like you should right now. You should be like Christ and stay." I sure will miss her.
Juanita told us how she had given her fiance the option to come to church earlier in the week but she thought he had forgotten about it and wasn't going to push him. She said he woke up on Sunday and was the first one ready. She asked him where he was going and he said to church. It warmed my heart. Kira passed her baptismal interview this week and is all set for Saturday. She is so excited for her baptism and hasn't had a cigarette for quite some time now. She was really struggling with that when I came. I am really grateful that God gave me the gift of being able to see the good that he used me to do in this area. 
I wish I could write more but I have to go to the airport. Have a great week everyone! Next time you hear from me I will be in Peru.
Con amor,
Hermana Rhoten