Monday, June 30, 2014

Branch Baptisms

This week was awesome!! It was a week of baptisms for the branch. Through the amazing process of “going to the rescue” we have been able to see more and more families come together. I'm sending a picture of us with a family, whose little boy was baptized this past Saturday. The Dads name is Juan Carlos. He recently came back to the church after being less active for years, and separating from his wife and doing dumb things that he shouldn’t have done- and when he came back- he REALLY came back. He started reading everything he could get his hands on, and watching all the church videos that we had, and was recently called to be YM President and has been working really hard to get the YM active. And he has been praying that his wife would come back to him. We had visited her once when she rolled into town a month or two ago, she had on heavy makeup, immodest clothing, and kept on saying that she didn’t want to be with her husband, she just wanted to be by her kids. And then we couldn’t find her after that.

Then, it was so awesome to see, that when I went with Hna Payton (a new missionary I did divisions with. She is just so excited to work!)  to visit them- that she had come back, and she looked like a normal, happy person. She is ready to try and put her family back together, and they both supported their son (Juan Carlos Jr.) in getting baptized.

That same day, Samantha was baptized as well. Her family has been inactive for a long time, but the missionaries have always visited them, so they still know a lot about the church. Her mom still isn’t too interested in coming back, but it was so cool to see her at her daughter’s baptism. Samantha is so excited about everything, and she wants to be my best friend. (a.k.a. she goes through all my stuff all the time and clings to me glue.)

Then, later that afternoon, Adriana was baptized, whose family is working to come back as well. (Shes the one who was sitting on the bench with me in the blue dress in that picture I sent last week.) Shes an incredible little girl...  when she shared her testimony she said that "she felt that she had been touched by God" and then she proceeded to invite her family to join her up front and then shared a very dramatic and very cute testimony.

It was such a good day, a day where families seemed more united, and their children, who should have been baptized when they turned 8, were finally able to make promises to their Heavenly Father and  get the blessings that we all so desperately need

We also have been working with a less active family who have already started to progress so much. They started doing their family prayers and scripture study, and they have plans for an awesome FHE tonight. I love them so much…. And their son isn’t baptized either, so hopefully I'll be sending some more baptism pictures soon! (The Dad drives a MotoTaxi, so that’s where all the pictures of that come into play….)

Things here are good. Changes are coming up next week. But Hna Robinson and I are pretty sure that we are staying together (but throwing some prayers our way for a 4th change wouldn’t hurt at all…. Please and thankyou).  I love you all so much and hope that things are good back home!! Have a great week!

Hna Leavitt

Juan Carlos and Juan Carlos Jr

The Valley from Aplao


Yep- its true- its almost been 365 days since Ive been here in Peru! I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it either- part of me is excited to be able to say that I have been serving and sacrificing for my Heavenly Father for a full year now, but the other part of me views the short time ahead and sees December turn from a finish line to an expiration date. There is so much urgency about my work now, as I see the time that I have to wear a name tag on my chest dwindle every single day. There is so much to be done, so much to get better at, so many people to help. I want these next 6 months to be the most intense, tiring, and fulfilling months of my life. I love it so much, being out here and helping people understand who they really are.

I had such a sweet experience this week with a girl named Esther that brought the reality and divinity of my missionary purpose to life like never before. We were on divisions with Hna Ango and Hna "Unsinkable" Brown in Camana, and the night before we had a coordination meeting with the District President in an attempt to get some organized training and help from Camana, and then that night we went back to their pensionistas, and were just sitting there, eating dinner, when Esther walked in and sat down with the two of us (everyone else had already finished up by that time) and we just started chatting. We had met her a few months before, when we did our first divisions there, and we found out that she was an orphan, that both of her parents had died a few years ago in an accident, and that she had just been bounced from home to home, and was now staying with the sisters pensionista. So as we were talking, we asked her if she knew why we were there, in Peru, so far away from our homes. She said she didn't know, so we explained to her that we are here to help people with their faith in Jesus Christ and to help everyone make it back to the presence of our Heavenly Father. And then, knowing her past, we asked her if she knew why we were here, on the earth. She said she didn't know, so we explained our purpose as children of God. And then.... then we told her that after this life, there is another one. The surprise and confusion was so easy to read on her face, and she said that she had no idea what we were talking about. So we took it really slow, and very simple, and explained to her that our goal is to make it to a beautiful, bright, happy place (called the Celestial Kingdom) where we can live with God and Jesus Christ, and our families forever, and we saw happiness replace confusion and the sweetest question that I have ever been privileged to hear  in all my life fell from her lips "You mean... that I can find my family again?" It was so sweet and so tender and the spirit was so strong that Hermana Robinson had to explain it as I turned my head to hide my tears ( I didn't want her to worry her or anything.) But in that moment- what we were all experiencing just pierced my heart and touched my soul. There wasn't much potential for her to be a future investigator, as their pensionista is strongly Catholic, and it wasnt our area and we couldn't count it as a lesson, but I felt like I had better fulfilled my purpose as a missionary in that moment than ever before. In an instant, that little kitchen turned into a holy place, as we helped a little girl understand that families could be together forever, and that her Heavenly Father loves her so much.

And that was the "crowning experience" this week that assured me that I'm here,  in an extraordinary work that will roll forth until everyone has the chance to understand who they are.

I love you all and hope that you have a fantastic week!!

Hermana Leavitt

Me with a Llama

Another Picture at Natalys Baptism
Our GIANT friend... Baxter. He likes to follow us and protect us from mean people. And he also likes to kind of slobber attack me when I sit down.

With some of my friends (under the age of 10) after they had a fathers day dance festival.
A beautiful Peruvian Flag on Flag Day!
A picture of me on Flag Day! Red and white all the way!!
A branch activity- Christmas in June
Me and my compy at Consejo

From my visit to Andy!


We are training here. Actually, maybe it would be better to say that we are TRAINing here in Corire, allowing the leaders to be able to magnify and fulfill their callings so that they will be self sufficiently "steaming along" on the path of correct church administration (to borrow the Train metaphor that Dad came up with...)

But in all seriousness- we really are doing some intense trainings here in Rama Aplao. This past Sunday we had all the leaders stay for a mandatory "introductory" training, where we gave them a checklist of things that they need to do for their organizations. Its something pretty simple that we came up with, and with the help of the elders and the presidency, was executed fairly well. We had presidente Zobrist skype call in, and then we presented the papers, and then they all split up to plan. I think it will really help the ball get moving! The goal is to have them doing the right thing well enough that the next missionaries here will be able to focus more on the traditional missionary work, and not have to worry about things like this. I think we are most definitely on the right track, and now that we have a system to be able to use to do more followup, I think the rate of improvement is going to increase dramatically. Its all about thinking outside of the box, and doing new and innovative things that they have never ever done before. These people are amazing, and I know that if they can just get the tools that they need to be able to do their work the way the Lord wants it done, then miracles will happen.

I am, yet again, so happy here! We had an amazing activity, Christmas in June, that 60 people went to. We did basically everything for it, but it was our "example" to the ward of what needs to be done... and its the last time we are being that involved, so if they want to have fun activities, they will have to work for them. We are willing to support, but its time to start stretching and growing a little bit.

We have a little family that we are working to get baptized, and I am so excited for them!! They are all so awesome. Also, we are trying to help a less active who is living with this man get married, so that they can get baptized, and now that he has a ring to propose with, we are excited to see the results!

Things are moving and progressing here, and I am so blessed to have been able to  be such an active participant in hastening the work. Ive learned so much in these past.... 355 days. I love it so much and I hope that I get to stay here for a long, long time!

I love you all and I hope that you have a great week!

Hermana Leavitt

Natalys baptism
Skypin' with the Prez

Training Checklist for Leaders

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Road to Pitis

- A few months ago (2 months more or less) a lady was baptized into the branch, and her name was Paulina. She is 57 years old, comes up to about my hip, and has a broken arm, and osteoporosis, so the broken arm cant be put together, and it just kind of dangles there, out of place. She also has problems walking and uses a cane. And she doesn't have teeth. (If you go back to the email when we had to help get her dressed for her baptism, that's the same lady.) She hasn't been to church for the past 3 weeks, due to health reasons, but the thing is that she lives so far away that its hard to visit her. We had been thinking we probably should, and then the Lord made it clear to us that we needed to.

We saw her once in Corire, moving super slowly and taking a break about every 50 feet, so we went and chatted, and she said that her health is getting worse. So we made plans to visit, for the next week, because our schedule was just too  full for the weekend. Then, the next day we were up in Aplao, running around trying to get things ready for a mission night, when we saw her, resting about 20 ft away from the entrance to the emergency room. So we went up and talked to her, because she is so cute and we love her so much, and she said that she needed to go to the hospital for an injection because her bones hurt so bad. So we helped her with a bag, took her in, got her the help  that she needed (I didn't watch her get the shot, believe it or not) and then we bought her some snacks, put her on the combi and sent her away, wondering how many times we were going to run into her.

Then, that next day, all of our appointments fell through, a day decided to prevent us from finding an investigator, and we weren't sure what to do, so we thought that we better pay that lady a visit. She lives on the other side of the valley/river in a little tiny pueblito called "Pitis", which we remembered walking by one day as we were stranded in Pedregal Chico before the bridges were built and we had to walk home ( a 3 hour walk), so, trying to be smart, we took a bus all the way up to the Mesana, and then got off, thinking that in 10 minutes we would be there.

Turns out, its more of a 45 minute walk.

So we ended getting there around 6 at night, and had a nice visit with her and her family. She was even worse that day, because she ended up twisting her ankle on her way back from the hospital, and her daughter (LuzMarina, who is her exact same size) had to literally pick her up and carry her in the room. Her daughters not a member, and she is 25 and just works in the fields all day when people will hire her. So we started talking about how special Paulina is for us, and how much we love her, and how we know that things are hard right now, but that with faith we can bear all the burdens in our lives. I felt impressed to talk about how we know that Jesus Christ visited the Americas after he was resurrected, and as he visited the people here, he taught them the doctrine of prayer, through teaching and also through his example. She was so excited and changed by our visit, we left basically ready to start filling the font again! But, due to the spontaneous nature of the visit, and also because we had no idea it would take that long to get there, it was pitch black outside.

And we were a long way from home.

So.... since we couldn't stay there forever, we started walking. And, to make a long story short, it was a scary walk home. All the circumstances made it seem like the longest road in the history of roads, and all I wanted to do was get off of it. But, we had felt distinctly impressed to go visit Paulina, and we knew that the Lord would protect us for following a prompting, so we walked. It was literally, walking by faith. Because we couldn't see anything and we had only been there once before. But, as we half walked and ran home, I couldn't help but feel protected, like we were literally being surrounded by angels that kept all the danger away. It was a special, exhausting time.

But it was one of the best visits we have ever had.

An update on the branch:

People finally have callings! We have had a dramatic increase. Now almost all the callings are filled, and more and more men are advancing in the priesthood. Now comes the tricky part: training. Our District isn't too much help. At all. They do live 2 hours away, but still. No help there. So, its yet again, up to us. But I'm excited, because I have had an idea.

We have been trying to get the organizations going for awhile now.... but they just don't know what to do. And then we tell them, and they get all overwhelmed, and then they don't do anything. We try and do simple things, but it still hasn't been giving us the results that we need. Things need to start moving and rolling here in the branch!! So, I got this idea of having a mandatory training next Sunday, and then presenting all the leaders with a little "checklist" of things to do. The first thing: get your presidency full (if its not) and registered in MLS system. Then, they have a list of trainings that their presidencies need to attend (allowing them to schedule 2 of their own and 2 that we are putting on in the church), then, they need to plan out their meetings and activities for the next trimester, and do the simple things every week, like going to ward council and cleaning the church. And we made it in a nice, pretty format, that they should take seriously.

Sometimes I wonder if I need to have more patience.... I want it all to be perfect. And I know that perfection takes time and faith, so that's the challenge now.

Guess who I am going to visit in 10 minutes?! ANDY!!!! That's right, we are in Hunter, going to visit my old family. And I am just giddy with excitement.

Well, that's about all the time I have. I love you all so much, enjoy the pictures!! (yay for fast internet!)

Me and my companion Hermana Robinson

Us with some newly activated members (he become 2nd counselor shortly after this picture)
Making some tin-foil dinners

Tender mercy - getting a ride on a tractor so we wouldn't be late to an appointment

Norma and Aldo with their bap certificates. And Angeles. She is crazy.

This is a dog we found, shivering on the side of the road. So we made him a dog shelter. And then my heart broke when we had to leave. But there is a part II to this story. Its a happy ending.

Lehi's Dream Activity with other missionaries

End of Lehi's dream activity

This is me with Norma, she is awesome!

Picture of the valley

Knocking on a scary door