Monday, March 30, 2009

Scott's Spiritual Experience in Junín

I'm not sure why this special, sacred experience happened to me in Junín, a remote, wind-blown town in the high altiplano of the central Andes. This shows the LDS chapel fence on the right on a typical Junín street:

Maybe because of the inspiration I felt when such wonderful children showed up to Beverly's music lessons, four of whom are shown here:

Or maybe because of the six people who attended my Book of Mormon class, among whom were the branch president and his family; a recently returned sister missionary; and a young man who is just submitting his papers for his mission. This picture shows Beverly and me with the returned sister missionary:

Or maybe because I needed this experience as a further personal witness of the Book of Mormon, as promised in my patriarchal blessing.

Regardless of why it happened in Junín, it was a special experience:

As I was reviewing the notes I had prepared for the Book of Mormon class and meditating on the scriptures in a freezing cold classroom in the Junín chapel, I felt a warm sensation in my chest—a true burning of the bosom—which I recognized as a witness of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.

And then, when the class began, the eyes of my understanding were opened, and I was able to perceive the meaning of the scriptures with more clarity than perhaps at any time in my life. I mentioned to the students that the Book of Mormon was a book of covenants—nothing new there—and then I drew a diagram of one of the major themes of the Book of Mormon—the deliverance pattern, which includes captivity, deliverance, exodus, and the Promised Land—and I drew an arrow between the word exodus and the phrase Promised Land. I asked the students, "How do we have a successful exodus through the wilderness (our life on earth) to the Promised Land (our celestial reward)?" And the answer (which seems obvious in retrospect) is: we make and keep covenants. And why? Because through covenant keeping, we gain the guidance of the Holy Ghost.

The Liahona was a covenant by which the Lehites were guided through the fertile lands (blessed states of righteousness) during their exodus through the wilderness, just as we are guided through our mortal sojourn by keeping covenants and thereby receiving the Spirit. This process of exodus to the Promised Land was repeated three times—among the Lehites, the Jaredites, and the Mulekites—to fulfill the law of witnesses—so that we would understand that these three stories are our stories; they are stories of our exodus on earth.

We then re-read 1 Nephi 1:1 from the perspective of the deliverance pattern and saw for the first time that this verse is a mini-summary of the entire Book of Mormon. When Nephi says he was born of goodly parents, he refers not only to Lehi and Sariah but also to his lineage in the House of Israel. When he says that he learned the knowledge of his father, he was referring to his knowledge of the covenant between Jehovah and Abraham, which was passed down to his day, and which is renewed in our day through the Book of Mormon to the remnant of the House of Israel. When he said he endured much affliction, he was referring to his exodus in the wilderness (our sojourn on earth). When he says he was highly favored of the Lord, he is saying that he kept the covenant and received the Spirit. That’s how we become favored of the Lord.

We then read 1 Nephi 2:2-4, about Lehi’s call into the wilderness and likened his leaving all his riches to our leaving the riches of being in the presence of God to come to earth. The veil of forgetfulness causes us to come to earth with nothing, even as Lehi went into the wilderness with nothing.

In these early verses in the Book of Mormon, we are given an overview of the theme of the entire book: We succeed in our travel to the Promised Land (celestial glory) through making and keeping covenants.

I'm sure most of you reading this post knew all these things, but for me it was a personal revelation, given while teaching a Book of Mormon class to the descendants of Lehi, the remnants of the House of Israel, in a remote town in the high Andes.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Music and Dance in the Tarma District

Every Saturday, we travel to two outlying branches to teach piano lessons and Book of Mormon. Today nine students came to Beverly's music class in Junín. Here is Fredy, Beverly's prize student. He has really practiced during the past two weeks and can already play several very simple hymns:

Thirteen students showed up to the music class in La Oroya. That brought the total number of Beverly's music students for the week to 40. They ranged in age from 4 to 60. Here are some of the students in La Oroya:

In this picture some of the piano students in La Oroya watch one of their group (Percy) trying to play the piano. Notice our nonmember driver (in the back, on the right). He sat through the music classes in both Junín and La Oroya. He and his family have also begun having the missionary lessons from the young missionaries:

After our day-long travels, we arrived back to Tarma in time to attend a district Primary activity. Here some young Primary girls doing a traditional Peruvian dance. They are high-spirited, very coordinated little girls:

Our four Tarma missionaries also enjoyed the event (l to r: Elder Keel, Elder Santos, Elder Illachura, and Elder Wengren):

The five dancers pose for a photo. Their names are Yomira, Yomara, Michaell, Dayana (she has twice been to our home for Family Home Evening), and Tamara:

Can you see in their faces how the Lamanites are flourishing as a rose, even in this remote part of the Lord's vineyard?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Our Trip to Huánuco

Our Multi-Zone Conference was held Monday in Huánuco, near the far northern part of our mission, about 5 hour's ride from Tarma. We had to go to San Pedro de Cajas (again!) to pick up Scott's triple combination that he left there the week before. Scott ended up with 5 interviews while we were there, so it was worth the trip. Here's a shot of part of the town and the road that leads out of town toward Huánuco:

On our way out of town, we stopped at Cachipozo, a pair of natural salt wells considered sacred by the locals:

Near Cachipozo is a set of ancient white rock walls:

To get from San Pedro to Huánuco, we had to drive through the rugged Andes Mountains. Notice how high up the farmlands go:

In Huánuco, we stayed at the Grand Hotel in a large, well-decorated room:

There were about 50 missionaries at the Multi-Zone Conference. Our Tarma elders attended the conference. Here are Elder Keel, Elder Santos, Elder Illachura, and Elder Wengren:

On the way home, we saw this large herd of llamas near a lake at an elevation of 15,000 feet above sea level:

We also passed Lake Junín, the largest lake in Perú. It's a famous bird refuge. You can see the Cordillera de la Viuda in the background (click the picture to see a larger view):

The trip was a spiritual treat, not just because we attended a wonderful conference, but also because we were able to give the second missionary discussion to our driver. (We gave him the first discussion on an earlier trip.) He has attended a testimony meeting, one of Beverly's music classes, and the sacrament meeting in San Pedro de Cajas. He accepted our challenge to read the Book of Mormon, pray about it, and be baptized.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Scott's Morning Walk

Today I went out on my morning power walk/run with my camera in hand. I headed east up the hill, and within 15 minutes I was out in the countryside:

I met this man harvesting his crop to take home to his animals:

I walked/jogged on by, but on my way back down the hill, the man was walking up with his load and his sickle:

I chatted with the man for a few minutes and found out that he is originally from San Pedro de Cajas. He then asked me if I would take another picture as a souvenir:

Later, I stopped to chat with these two women, who were loading milk onto their donkey to take the milk to market:

By the way, I always ask people for permission to take their pictures. One friendly woman with whom I chatted for a few minutes declined; all the others accepted my request and were happy to see themselves on my camera LCD afterwards. I love these happy, bright, hard-working Peruvians.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Our Trip to San Pedro de Cajas

We left Tarma at 7:30 am and headed through the high Andes mountains to attend church in San Pedro de Cajas (altitude 13,300 ft.). This is rich farmland, and the Peruvians try to use every square inch possible, right up the sides of the mountains and down into the valleys:

The narrow and bumpy dirt road followed the agricultural valley and then did a series of cutbacks up the side of the steep mountain:

When we didn't stop to think about how close the road was to the edge of the cliff, we enjoyed vistas like this one:

At the top of the mountain, the terrain leveled off somewhat, leaving a patchwork of more farms. The purple-flowered plants shown here are potatoes:

As we approached San Pedro de Cajas, we saw the small farms of the village:

The branch of the church in San Pedro de Cajas is part of the Tarma District. There is a nice chapel (which stayed a not-so-nice 45 degrees during the entire meetings). In Sacrament Meeting, Beverly bore her testimony and Scott gave a 20-minute talk. Here are a few of the members: the branch president is 4th from the left on the back row and the two full-time missionaries, Elders Bird and Costo, are front and center:

This is a picture of one of the little Primary girls:

After church, we walked along this street to attend a social at a church member's home:

This woman is one of the church members who attended the party.

Several of the sisters of the branch posed for this picture:

The hostess of the ward social was happy to have Scott take her picture:

The food at the social was "pachamanca," a favorite here in the high Andes. It is like a "Dutch oven" dinner, but instead of an oven, they use a hole in the ground, lined with leaves. The hole is filled with potatoes, meat, husk-wrapped bananas with raisins, etc., and the whole thing is covered with red-hot stones:

Today was another amazing adventure for us here in Peru!

The New District Presidency in Tarma

This is the Tarma District Presidency who were called and sustained last week at District Conference. Front row, l to r: Scott (advisor to the presidency), President Oliver Romaní (district president). Back row, l to r: Brother Daniel Román (executive secretary), President Jaime Calderón (1st counselor), President Luis David Agostinelli (2nd counselor, he lives in La Oroya), and Brother Jose Miguel Calderón (district clerk).

Teaching Institute in the Tarma District

While Beverly is teaching music (see her previous post), Scott is teaching Institute classes. He teaches a class on the Doctrine and Convenants (Doctrina y Convenios) on Thursday evenings. Here are his students from the second week of classes. The district president and his wife are on the far left.

Here's the members of the Book of Mormon class that Scott teaches on Friday evenings. Some of the students are the same as the Thursday night class.

On Saturdays, Scott and Beverly travel to La Oroya (altitude 12,200 ft), where Scott teaches Book of Mormon (El Libro de Mormón) and then they travel to Junín (13,500 ft), where Scott teaches another Libro de Mormón class. The first group of students from one of the classes is shown here. The young man on the left is putting in his papers to go on a mission. The man next to him is the Junín branch president. His wife is second from the right.

One of the students (shown in the previous picture) is this wonderful sister. She is 72 years old and is about 4 feet tall. She has been a member of the Church for about 1½ years, and is excited about learning more about the Book of Mormon.

Teaching Music in the Tarma District

Beverly has begun to teach music to children and adults in the Tarma District. This picture shows four of the six women who meet twice a week to learn how to conduct hymns. Scott says some of them can already lead the music better than anyone we have seen in Tarma or Lima.

Here are some of the teenagers in Tarma who meet on Tuesday, Thursday, or Friday nights to learn to play the piano. Hopefully, they will be able to accompany hymns in their branches.

On Saturday mornings we travel to La Aroya (an hour away) where Beverly is teaching these people how to play the piano.

On Saturday afternoons, we travel to Junin (an hour from La Aroya) where five children are learning to play the piano. The man in this picture is our nonmember taxi driver who actually sat through the first lesson while he waited for us. He is such a kind man; we are trying to interest him in the church.

This is Freddy. He was eagerly awaiting our arrival at the church in Junin. Then he called his two friends on the phone so that they would come. Freddy is smart and talented.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Our Favorite "Grocery Store"

To continue your tour of our neighborhood, we now show you our favorite grocery store here in Tarma: Comercial Alicia. It's located only three blocks from our home. Here we buy our fruit, vegetables, cheese, juices, laundry detergent, tissue paper, etc., and most importantly our large containers of bottled water.

Inside the store you will find cluttered shelves and piles of just about everything, crammed into a space about the size of our Orem living room. The old man in the picture here is father to María, the owner (María's sister Alicia, for whom the store was named, passed away last year):

After Scott took two or three pictures of the store, he was wondering how to ask the two women who run the store for their pictures. But then, María the owner asked him to take her picture!

Scott was then able to take a picture of the other woman, also named María, who helps run the store:

These two Marias are so helpful. If they don't have something we need, they send a helper to go get it at another market. If the vegetables out front don't look so great, they volunteer to check their produce in the back for something better. If we don't know the Spanish name for something, they play 20 Questions until they figure out what we want.

Today we bought an onion, four Roma tomatoes, two large red bell peppers, and two packages of (chicken) ham. The total price: US$1.3o. As Scott says---the food in Tarma is nearly free.

Our Tarma Neighborhood

We showed you our neighborhood in Lima, now we want to show you our neighborhood in Tarma. Looking south out our second-floor bedroom window (Remember, in Peru the poor homes are in the hills, not the rich ones):

Looking east out our bedroom window, with our yard in the foreground (the big building high up on the hill is a school):

The Internet store across the street:

Looking west down Bermúdez (our street), with its constant parade of mototaxis:

The bread store (panedería), a half a block away, where we buy bread almost every day:

The copy center, a block and a half away, where we make copies of handouts for our lessons:

The paper and office-supplies store, two blocks away:

The barber shop/beauty salon ("peluquería"), where Beverly had her hair done and Scott had his hair cut. The haircut for Scott was on par with the haircuts at the BYU Barber Shop (US$10-$12), but here in Tarma, Scott paid US$0.80. Yep, that's 80 cents for a haircut. Beverly's tint and haircut: $14. (However, she's not sure she'll go back because standard procedure in Tarma is to use the same brush, comb, towel, and rinse water for all clients.)

The bodega (little general store) a half a block away, where we buy eggs, milk, soda pop, canned tuna fish, chips, etc.

As you can see, we have a wide range of wonderful little stores all within a few blocks. We really enjoy our neighborhood.

And there's never a dull moment on our street. Here you see the gate to our house (house number 390) and a "moving van" going down the hill: