… ¡y prospero año nuevo!
Can you guys believe that Christmas is already here?? I can’t. What the heck, it’s like, in two days. Here the 24th is counted more as Christmas than the 25th. Odd, huh? What do you guys want for Christmas? I don’t want y’all to be jealous, but I’m kinda going to have the best Christmas present ever: I’ll be seeing my family crazy soon. And I’ll be seein’ my mom and Tom in like a week. I know, pretty great, right? It’s because I finally learned how to behave.
This week has been quite eventful. So on Monday I had dinner at the President’s house. I think I could write like an entire book about how that went. Luckily I’m like out of time to write you guys! But it was really odd because it doesn’t feel real yet that I’m going. I just felt sort of out of place. (There were 5 of us there, and three already left this week, including my BFF Hermana Brudnicki. She’s already with her family!!!) But it was a VERY edifying meeting and a VERY delicious dinner. Seriously. AMERICAN FOOD! We ate Lùcuma Pie for dessert. Yum.
On Tuesday, we went over to our mission leader’s house and helped them set up for Christmas as a service project. His wife is still down and occupied with the new baby and so we were happy to help. It was a lot of fun!!!
Also, in the evening we had the relief society party!!! It was cool. It was supposed to start at 5 though but it started at 8pm…. we were going to show this presentation we made about the Living Christ, (basically the PowerPoint that mom made, but in Spanish) but after about 20 million technical difficulties and a whole lot of frustration, we weren’t able to show it. We were really bummed, to be honest. Totally destroyed. But then we thought that we could show it at the ward Christmas party on Saturday.
Thursday we spent in the family history center, covering a couple of shifts.
And Friday was my LAST SHIFT EVER…… sad stuff. We have to close the center for the holidays. It won’t open up until January 6th. So that was it!! My baby… the center…. now it’s all grown up and I have to let it go :'( I wonder who’s going to take my place as the next family history sister ??? I’m going to suggest Hermana Zumba.
On Saturday morning, as we were leaving missionary correlation with the mission leader, we passed by a little wooden house on the same street where our mission leader lives. Elder Scott turned to us, and said, ”Hey, have you guys contacted that place yet?” No, we hadn’t. He said, ”Well, you should. Because when we passed, I felt something really good about it. Bye!” And that was it. So yesterday after lunch, we went back and knocked on the door. A little old woman came out and we began to contact her. We told her that we share a message about Jesus Christ, and she said sincerely, ”¿Qué cosa es Jesucristo?” We started to explain about how He is the Son of God who was sent to free us from the burdens of the weaknesses and errors of this world, and to help us perfect ourselves, etc. And she became really interested with the way that we were explaining him. She said, ”And do you have anything more that you could let me borrow to read? Or just this little card?” We gave her a booklet for lesson 3 and told her that we could come back to explain it more this week, and she said that she would love it! She was so sincere! She told us that she was excited and that she would be waiting for us, then said, ”Hey, knock on the next door down—-my neighbor would also be interested!” And there we had it — a new investigator and another reference, all from a feeling that Elder Scott had. It’s so true that the only way that we can find new investigators with true intent is through the Spirit. Without it, it’s like finding a needle in a haystack! The Lord sure works through mysterious ways.
On Saturday, the ward Christmas party was a BLAST! A good number of people turned up, including a lot of less active members, recent converts and also investigators! We got all geared up to give the Living Christ presentation, but it didn’t end up working out again :/
BUT — we didn’t lose hope. Norma (the RS Pres.) told us that we could show it in the last 10 minutes of relief society. We started getting everything ready during the second hour block, and boy, I can’t even tell you everything that we went through. EVERYTHING POSSIBLE that could have gone wrong… DID! EVERYTHING. I think that the adversary was REALLY working hard against this thing. There were so many interpersonal problems, technical problems, logistical problems, social problems, communication problems, support problems, leadership problems…. It was such a complete nightmare that believe it or not, we ended up literally crying in frustration and sadness. But somehow, after 2 hours of fighting and fighting to figure out a way to make it work, it came through. We were able to project it in the sacrament meeting room and share it with the ward. It turned out great and I really hope that it was able to touch their hearts. The Living Christ document is such a powerful testimony of the Savior and it’s one of the perfect scriptures to read and study for the Christmas season.
Well, I have REALLY got to go but I just want to share with you guys my testimony that this work is one of the most BEAUTIFUL things that exist on this planet. A mission, if you do it with your whole heart, is one of the most amazingly powerful and edifying experiences that one can have. It’s the best way to help your current family and also your future family. I don’t know how things are going to be when I get back home, and I know that I can’t expect them to be easy, but Preach my Gospel says something really lovely that I would like to share: ”President Ezra Taft Benson taught: “We are commanded by God to take this gospel to all the world. That is the cause that must unite us today. Only the gospel will save the world from the calamity of its own self-destruction. Only the gospel will unite men of all races and nationalities in peace. Only the gospel will bring joy, happiness, and salvation to the human family” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson , 167).” (In Chapter 1)
His gospel is a message of peace and goodwill. It’s hope and it’s change for the better. It’s progress, and true, lasting happiness. I’ve never been more happy in my life than I am now. It’s such a blessing to be able to have this knowledge of faith, repentance, baptism for the remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and how to endure and make it to the end—finish strong. Like any loving father would do for his children, Heavenly Father gives us all of the tools that we need to make it through whatever hurdle life (or the adversary) throws at us. Because it’s all part of the plan: we are born to succeed. Literally everything is in our favor. God is literally on our team in this game, and if we give everything to Him, there’s no way that we can fail. Like the 4th missionary says — Alone, we can only make a smudge of ourselves. But with His power, He can make ourselves like Christ. Everything will pass. It always does. And that’s what I’m going to have to be telling myself. For like my whole life. Good thing that the Mission has really taught me that principle well. And I know that throughout my life, I’ll have the opportunity to gain a whole lot more testimonies in addition to it!
That’s the Spirit!
Well, I’ve gotta run. Missionary work is calling. There are people to visit. There are families to strengthen. There is also hot chocolate to be drunk and panneton to be eaten. ¡Chau!
See y’all next week!!!
I have the coolest companion that’s been teaching me little phrases in quechua!!
I hope that you guys have had a great week! Things are going really well down here in Las Brisas. I think these last two cambios have been the most fun in my entire life! Like really though. Hermana Choque and I have been hitting hard with this Él es la Dádiva thing (He is the Gift) and we’ve put the cards on our apartment windows and in the center, and we talked to all of the other family history consultants about showing the video to the visitors that pass by. Attendance is down a little bit over there in the IRU because classes are out for this month, but it might be to our advantage because we going to focus on getting a hold of all of the main YSA leaders in the different stakes and inviting them to come down and get excited about it all. Hermana Choque and I are really fasting and praying for new investigators. We’ve got a few that totally want to get baptized, but have problems with marriage papers and such. It’s a rough spot. Hopefully we can get everything worked out. As for gaining trust in the ward, we’ve been taking the Ammon approach (service) and it’s been really helpful. I think things are really brightening up down here. Our ward council is gaining more and more trust with us, and the only thing left that we have to do is help them to use our progress reports. Up until now, they’ve been a little pointless but with a little patience and diligence in the meetings I think it’ll all be alright!
This week, it’s been a little difficult as far as visits go. I know that the missionary handbook of rules says that supposedly holidays are the best days to proselyte because many families are home, but that sure doesn’t hold true down here in Peruvia. Nobody wants to receive a visit from the missionaries right now. This week has been a whole lot of walking and walking and walking and walking…. I feel like every day we’re singing that primary song about Pioneer Children.. ja ja ja… It’s ok though. Things’ll let up soon. We’ve been contacting a lot of people in the street and it looks like we’ve found a few new appointments for this week. One of the great things is that for the last month or so, we’ve been finding just in the road (they’ve come up to us every time!) about 3 golden investigators or golden less-active members that are ready to be reactivated PER WEEK (I’ve never seen so many cases like this in a row in my entire mission!), but every single time they’ve been referrals for other missionaries because they live in other ward boundaries or stakes. D’oh! Nah, but it’s ok because we’re really happy for them and for the initiative that they’ve taken to increase their faith and get to know the Savior more. The important part is that we’re helping the Lord out with these guys.
I forgot to mention it last week, but on Saturday, our ward had our GRAN Feria de Historia Familiar!! It was probably one of the best, most organized that I’ve ever seen — and the best part was that the ward did everything! It was incredible. Our High Priest Group Leader planned out everything from organizing a ton of different classrooms to be operating simultaneously, to balloon archways, to giving out gift bags to all of the visitors with pens and booklets and cards about the temple. The only thing that they asked us to do was to be there and bring a few other companionships of missionaries to contact people in the street and bring them in for an introduction to the church. We got permission from the zone leaders to borrow a few more from the zone, and it was a huge success! We taught about 20 new investigators!! Even one woman said that she used to always walk behind the church to get to her house, but for some reason she felt like walking in front, and that’s when the Elders contacted her. Lucky Elder Gonzalez and Elder Scott have about 13 referrals or so… Hermana Choque and I are totally jealous. It was such a flawless effort between missionary work and family history. So proud!!!
One of our dear member friends named Anibal loaned us this incredible and original book that’s hand-written from 1914. A hundred years ago! It was written by his grandmother here in Lima, and it’s all beautiful, beautiful poetry. He loaned it to us for two reasons — there was a poem in there in English that was really sweet about how we should always keep learning our entire lives, and he wanted me to translate it into Spanish because he never knew what it said. Also, he was wondering if we could scan the whole thing in and digitalize it with the scanner in the family history center, so that it could be preserved. The Elders helped us out and after about an entire hour of scanning, we got it done. I totally meant to bring my USB so that I could send you guys a photo so you could see the amazing calligraphy, but I left it home this morning! Sorry. But I’ll send it next week for sure.
On Friday we had a really fun family night at the house of our mission leader and we made Christmas letters and watched church Christmas movies and ate panneton and hot chocolate and ice-cream and it was a lot of fun. We invited a couple other recent convert families and it was a bash! Hopefully they can forward on the photos to me. :)
So Christmas is approaching, and tonight I have to go to dinner at the President’s house along with everyone else who’s finishing their missions in December. It’s a mission tradition that everyone who’s finishing goes to eat with him and Hermana Borg cooks. I don’t know how it will go but I’m kind of nervous. It’s weird because it doesn’t even feel like the Christmas season at all! Not just because it’s almost summer, but in general. This Christmas is so much different than the last one. Sometimes Hermana Choque and I forget that it’s going to be so soon. The same goes for going home. The other missionaries in the zone sure have a hoot making fun of me and joking about how I’m getting ”trunky” and counting down the days, but the sincere, real truth is that I haven’t! I know that I’m going to be with my parents in about two weeks, but it just seems like a dream. It doesn’t seem real. It’s just work as usual! In fact, if anything, I think that my stress is taking the form of wanting to get as much work done as possible, and it’s making me anxious to try and teach 1,874 lessons and find 896 people every week. I want to get everything done before they kick me out!! There are still so many things that we have to do in the center that we’ve planned!!! Agh. But who knows. Life is weird. I’m content with not being trunky though. I’ll let you guys know how everything goes!
¡Noq’a yachani kay iglesia verdadero casjanta!
¡Jayanakusun kunintan! :)
Love, Hermana Hollberg
Playing with this crazy kitten we found in the street. It took us about 10 minutes to catch it. It did NOT want to be held!!! It was a housecat though, don’t worry.
I don’t know we were really bored that night (it was a very long day of walking and walking and walking with no luck) so we just took a ton of pictures of this cat playing with its mom. The mom-cat brought the kitten a little cockroach to play with. How sweet… haha
Ok, so we’re going to start things super didactically today. We’re going to use our imaginations. Ok, picture someone taking a live frog, knocking it on a table really quickly to kill it, taking off it’s skin, throwing it in some boiling water for a minute, then tossing it into a blender with some milk, honey, maca….. and then drinking it! It’s supposedly really healthy!!!!! Well…. seeing as this is my last month and how I’ve gotta go hard and leave everything in the court here in Perú… Hermana Choque and I HAD to dare each other to try it. I sure love that girl so much. We have so much fun together. And guess what?? The extract was REALLY GROSS!!! But hey I did it and I finished it all and now I can cross it off of my bucket list. So there!!
So I’m sure that you have all heard about the lovely He is the Gift campaign — it’s a huge way of spreading Christmas cheer to the whole world by reminding us about the true reason behind Christmas. It’s all centered around this absolutely beautiful small video that the church made, which can be found at navidad.mormon.org or at christmas.mormon.org. Spoiler alert: It’s a tear-jerker. As missionaries, the church is having us work really hard about sharing it with just about everyone that we can. Hermana Choque and I got really into it and we filled the family history center with the contact cards, and even put some more on the window in our apartment, for all of the people who pass by! I really invite all of you folks out there to watch it, or watch it again if you have already seen it, because it has such a great message about how we can really take the best out of this Christmas season. After all, He was the first gift that started it all. And the greatest gift. See John 3:16.
A couple of weeks ago, I found out that two of my investigators back in San Silvestre got baptized!! I can’t tell you guys how HAPPY that has made me!!!! San Silvestre was probably the toughest sector out of my entire mission, and to hear that two of the people that we taught back there made the decision to get baptized…. that makes me SO HAPPY! One of them was this sweet little old man named Teofilo. He was baptized by Jesús, the recent-convert youth that Hermana Sanjines and I took to the temple for the first time back in the day with Martha. So great!! On Thursday, we had my last Mission Council, and we got to announce all of the achievements and numbers from the center! It was a lot of fun. We also got to hear about all of the fun plans for the mission Christmas party this year. It’s going to be a blast!
This week, it was our sweet pensionista Mayra’s birthday on Friday. We got up extra early to make her real-deal banana pancakes. It was awesome! I think I’m really getting the hang of making those things. Hermana Choque loved them too. Also, on Saturday, we got up early to make French toast because we had to have our meeting with our Mission Leader really early in the morning. In this ward, to gain trust, Hermana Choque and I have been taking the ”Ammon” Approach (or in other words, the service approach) and we’ve been having a lot of great success! If you can’t beat ’em, serve ’em! Things are getting better here every week.
At cambios, there were a ton of sectors that were closed because we’re losing a lot of missionaries at once. Especially sisters. In my group that’s going this transfer, there’s 19 of us. Sad enough, the sector that I opened in Barranco a year ago is closed now, so now there’s only Elders there. Crazy, right? :/
And finally…. speaking of cambios…. So on Tuesday I had to get up and bear my testimony in front of the whole mission with the other 18 missionaries, including Hermana Capps and Hermana Brudnicki. I was so nervous, I can’t even tell you guys. I had no idea what to say. For a lot of people, they get really emotional in their final testimony. There is a good amount of crying at change meetings, usually, to be honest. I’m not a crier or anything but I was still a little nervous about caving under pressure. But in the end, above all, I just prayed that something that I shared would help someone else who was there. Sometimes, in the last testimony, missionaries talk about their companions or about their life story, or they just keep it really short and stick to the basics. Every testimony is so unique — I guess that you could say that there aren’t two that are alike. What I decided to do in the end was bear a testimony about the big lesson that I’ve learned from each one of my sectors. Guys, mission presidents really do receive revelation for their missionaries. It’s so true. I have loved each one of my wards so much and I feel like I have learned a huge, everlasting, impactful lesson from each one of them. I’m out of time but to briefly share with you my recap:
Well, I really have to go now, but I just want you guys to know how much I really do love you and appreciate you. You guys are the best family in the world. And for those of you friends out there, thank you so much for the support too! It means a lot to me. I hope you all have a great week!! Take care!!!!
This cambio is already over!! How did that happen? This transfer has officially been the fastest one that I have ever had. It’s been really great and also bittersweet. In these 6 weeks that have blown by like wildfire, Hermana Choque and I have both learned a lot of things. There have been some amazing amazing times and also some really difficult moments too. But overall, I’d have to say that this transfer has been one of the most rewarding, fun transfers of my whole mission. And it was my last complete transfer in the field! Guys…. like, this is almost over! I’m going to be done at the very end of this month. I feel so incredibly torn. I feel like I just want to stay here and keep working. Hermana Choque and I have had so many ideas for this place and we feel like we’ve finally figured it out and what we’re going to do here for the next while and everything… and before I know it, they’ll be kicking me out! Just after we’re finally getting the hang of everything. This is craziness!
So yesterday we finished up the very first month here in the best Family History Center in the world! It’s been a blast. Getting to spend time here has been such a blessing and a pleasure. We’ve had the opportunity to meet so many people and see so many little daily miracles happen here. In total, in these three weeks, we’ve had 222 visitors! It’s so exciting! 20 names were sent directly to the temple system to get done and 141 were printed off to be taken and done there. To be honest, I would never have guessed that I would be doing all of this genealogy and family history stuff. Never would have even had an INKLING about it! But here I am and for Thanksgiving, I am so glad that I have gotten the opportunity to develop my testimony more about it. It’s so exciting to see in the world how much missionary work is changing and the church is developing. We all know that the church has three purposes, right: Perfect the saints, missionary work, and redeem the dead. Every day, the world is beginning to see that these three are more connected than ever. They aren’t three separate departments in the church, but really they are all made by the same redeeming power of the Atonement! (See President Kimball’s quote in Preach My Gospel, in chapter nine, the Family History section.) We realize that as missionaries, if we find a person who has a true desire to follow the gospel of Jesus Christ and join the church, and they decide to get baptized, and if we teach them about family history too, it will give them that root desire to live worthy of going to the temple and naturally they will become more perfected bit by bit! It all makes sense! :)
At the same time, being in the center has been a lot of fun, but it’s also been hard because it has taken us away from our sector and investigators and our members that we’ve been visiting. We can’t help but feel a little sad. But next cambio will be a lot better now that we’ve trained the other companionships — we’ll have more time. But our last investigator dropped us yesterday, and it was really really sad. It wasn’t because we weren’t visiting him enough or anything, but for personal reasons. But he’s really great and we’ve been visiting him for a few weeks now, talking to him about the Plan of Salvation and everything. He promised us that he was going to come to church yesterday, and he was really excited about it, but then when we went to his house (with our ward mission leader) to pick him up in the morning, he just opened up the door, gave us a little note, and closed the door again. The note basically said that in the war, as a marine, he had killed someone and felt like he had lost his soul and that he could never face stepping into a church again, etc….. It was really really really sad. Our mission leader was moved too and he speaks English well so he went and found a beautiful talk that Gordon B. Hinckley wrote called War and Peace, and he wrote a really sweet note on the back saying that we will always be there for him, whenever he feels comfortable to come to church, and he bore his testimony to him. We’re going to ask the Elders to take it over to him today and slip it under his door. Being a missionary is really great because you get to see miracles, and when the people around you have success, it makes you so incredibly happy, but it’s hard because when those same people suffer, you suffer too. :/ But sometimes, all we can do is just pray for them.
On Thursday, we had our multi-zone meeting with the President and the assistants. It was between our zone (Magdalena) and Rimac. It was maybe one of the best trainings that we have ever received. It was all focused on the basics — the gospel of Jesus Christ. Faith, repentance, baptism, the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. He asked us to study a talk by Elder Uchtdorf first, and then we discussed it there. It was called ”Pues ya no temáis, y su escudo seré.” It was a very spiritual and emotional meeting. President Borg is the best!!
That night, we got to celebrate Thanksgiving! There is this really awesome family of members in our ward who had been planning to give us Thanksgiving dinner since more than 6 weeks ago. They are so sweet! Thanksgiving happened to be on the same day as Elder Gonzalez’s birthday this year, so we got to eat cake too. First we shared a spiritual message about gratitude and for an activity we drew little hand turkeys and wrote what we were grateful for. It was really cute!
We talked to the family about everything beforehand and got approval for everything, and they told us that they were expecting a flour war. It was fine because they are in the process of gutting their house and so there was nothing that could have been damaged. It was a lot of fun and it’s a Thanksgiving that I’m sure none of us are going to forget. To say thanks for everything that they did for us, we went back to their house on Saturday and painted just about the whole thing as a service project. I am so grateful for the members who are like our families down here!
On Sunday, our little cute Yoreli Graciel was baptized! She was 8 years old, so it didn’t count as an investigator baptism but we still helped her get prepared by teaching her the missionary lessons and everything because she is just so sweet and special! She’s one of those little girls that you just like to be around because they have a sweet spirit. I can’t wait for her to serve a mission someday!
Tomorrow I have to give my final testimony in the cambios meeting. It’s a tradition for all of the people who are starting their last transfer to give their testimony in front of everyone. I’m really nervous and I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to say. But when it comes down to it, a testimony is a testimony.
I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and that it’s a complement to the Bible. I absolutely would not be here without it. I know that the church was restored through a prophet that was called of God — Joseph Smith. I know that he lived and died with honor, and that he sealed his testimony with his life. I know that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, everything that is unfair, incorrect, or painful in life can be recompensed. I know that before we lived here on the earth, we lived with our loving Father in Heaven, and that we’re here because he wants us to know just how much we truly can achieve, and what our divine potential really is. I know that everything that happens to us in this life is designed to give us, in the end, the greatest joy possible. And one of the greatest spiritual truths that I’ve learned in this time is that the hard things in our life really are for our good, in the end.
I sure love you guys so much and I hope that you have an absolutely amazing week. I’ll let you know what happens with cambios. I don’t think we’ll be going anywhere though.
TAKE CARE, EVERYONE!!!
With a lot of love,
Ok…. so… You know how everyone down here knows that at least ONCE in your mission, you’ll get bacteria?? I thought I was doing really well and that I was going to make it through the whole mission without any problems but… NOPE! It was my turn. I got a stomach infection! And Hermana Choque did too. We have been feeling pretty crumby for about a week or two, and then on Friday, I woke up at about 4 am because I felt like my stomach was just burning, and I couldn’t sleep. Then at about 8 am, I got a fever. I felt very, very sick. And I got very, very sick. Haha it was awful. I couldn’t even drink water because my body would be like, ”Nope! Not having any of that!” I couldn’t hold it down. I finally called Hermana Borg at about 9 and she prescribed us some medicine and told us that we’d have to take the entire day off. We were so mad because we had SO much to do, including a shift in the family history center from 2 pm to 8:30 pm, and we had some really important appointments there! It was also bad because I wanted to take Ibuprofen because my whole body was aching thanks to the fever, but we just couldn’t eat anything. We couldn’t even leave the house to buy pills, so we had to call the Elders over and they went to the Pharmacy for us and also gave us a blessing. They’re good guys. We pretty much slept the whole day on Friday, but on Saturday we had to get back to work. By Sunday, we were doing a lot better, but still feeling a little nauseous. And now it’s Monday and we’re doing great! So it’s over! But hey, I’ll tell you, it was a great way to loose like 5 pounds in two days! hahaha. Peruvian weight loss trick — eat food from venders in the road and get bacteria. It’s foolproof.
On Thursday, just before we got sick, we did an intercambio with our sister training leaders (Hermana Capps and Hermana Aguero) and it was actually really interesting. It was like a walk down memory lane. I went back to Magdalena, visited the same old people, ate lunch at my old pensionista’s house, slept in my same old bed, was companions with Hermana Capps again…. and It was actually really nice. We just talked and talked and talked… and it was really good. It felt like a sleepover.
This week Hermana Choque and I were totally looking forward to being able to spend more time in our sector but…. we were in it for even less than the last week!! It’s really sad. It actually makes you feel really guilty.. Because we have all of these members and, well, we don’t have any investigators right now but we have less active members to visit and everything, and the bishop has been giving us assignments but we’ve been coming home every night completely exhausted, trying our best to do everything, but we just can’t do it all in the same time. The family history center is getting way more structured, and that’s nice. Hopefully this week we’ll get more time to kick back and make our normal visits.
Ok, so church starts here in Las Brisas at 9 am, right? Well guess what happened yesterday: At 9:01, the second counselor to the bishop comes down from the stand and finds us in the crowd. He comes and whispers to us, ”um, so can one of you guys give a 10-15 minute talk? One of the guys who was supposed to speak didn’t come.” Doh! Hermana Choque didn’t want to so I did it. But it’s ok. I remember before my mission, Gerritt told me that in the field, you learn how to pull a lesson or talk out of nowhere and give it on the spot, and I remember thinking, ”Nu-huh, that’s like impossible.” But he was totally right. I was really nervous but I pretty much recycled a talk I gave in San Silvestre about the Book of Mormon and missionary work for members. And it turned out pretty spanking good. But it was the Spirit, not me. But there was this literally crazy guy who came to church (literally crazy and without his pills) and in the middle of my talk, he totally shouted ”AMEN!!!” from the front row and it was really embarrassing because I totally lost my train of thought and went red. Oh well! What can you do?
After church, we had to take the sacrament to a few families that needed it. We were going to go with a couple of priests, but in the end, they couldn’t because the stake needed them for something, so we got permission to go with the Elders in our ward. First, we went to the house of our mission leader because his wife had just had a C-section on Wednesday night and needed him to stay with her at the house, and couldn’t go to church. It was really spiritual: both of them looked like they were going to cry when it came time for the sacrament prayers. It was so nice. And then, we went to the house of one of our less active members named Anival. He has been suffering from diabetes and it got really serious and he about died a few times. He almost got his legs amputated too. We always visit him, he’s such a great guy! He’s still too weak to come to church though. So we took the Elders and the sacrament to him and it was seriously the most SPIRITUAL appointment that I’ve had in a while. It was amazing. The Elders also gave him a blessing and everyone was just crying again. We all just sat in silence for a while and the Spirit was so strong, there was so much peace in the air that Anival just sat and wept. I remember, before my mission, I didn’t ever really have a testimony about doing service. I knew that it was good and everything, and I always was there in the Young Women’s activities and all, but I guess I was just too selfish to really have a spiritual experience about it. But here, it’s been just a blessing to have the opportunity to learn about service, and how you can actually enjoy it so thoroughly! Visiting the sick, serving the weak, singing with the elderly…. It’s so great! I love it. Such a blessing.
Also, this week I think that one of my old investigators in San Silvestre got baptized!!! I’m so excited! I wanted to go so bad but they didn’t let me. His name is Teofilo, and Hermana Castillo and I found him. That means that’s the second baptism that that sector has had since it opened in February! Crazy, right? I know in the mission, we’re not supposed to call sectors ”dry sectors” or anything like that because they’re more difficult, but both of the current assistants served there in that ward a while ago and agree with me that it’s a ”faith-tester”. But I’m so happy for that place!!! I love San Silvestre so much!!!
So this week, I’ve been doing a lot of meditating. I’m really glad because the whole center thing has been keeping us really busy and I haven’t had time to even think about being trunky, but this morning, during personal study, we were re-reading the ”fourth missionary” talk and I just got really sad. I’m really sad. To think — in about a month, this whole entire adventure will be over. It’ll just feel like a dream. I can’t believe it. I don’t want to do it… I feel so happy and comfortable and I have my friends here and I know people and I’m happy with who I am and I’m happy with who the mission makes me be. And everyone always says here that the mission is like the MTC for real life. NOO! I don’t want that! Its funny because so many of us missionaries think that we’ve already hit nirvana or something like that—we get to a point and we’re like, ”Ok, I’ve reached my potential now. I’ve finished my life. I have my entire life planned out.” But we’re only TWENTY YEARS OLD! I feel like what 2 Nephi 31 says, how baptism is the door/gate to all of the stuff that the perfect gospel has to offer, but it’s like the mission is the door/gate in this case. And I’m really scared for that. Some people come home from their missions and they’re like, ”ok I’m ready to get married in two weeks please.” But the mission has had the opposite effect for me. I’m more scared of all of that stuff than ever before in my life. I’ve learned a lot about living life and enjoying each moment as it comes. That’s a big lesson you have to learn in the mission. For all of you guys who are going to serve soon, you have to remember that. That’s when the time starts flying by — when you live for today. Not for p-day, not waiting to go home in two years, but you have to live and enjoy each day and each week as it comes. And that goes for real life too. Heavenly Father wants us to hasten his work, but not to hurry it. When I get back, I have a lot of plans. I plan on really enjoying this time in my life — being young still. I’m going to get really active in institute and I’m going to study and work really hard and also… ok don’t laugh but I’m about 90% convinced that I’m coming back and maybe going to Bolivia to spend a summer doing a dance internship and participate in the festivals. I don’t know if you guys know, but traditional dance is such a huge deal down here, all year-round, and ESPECIALLY in Bolivia where my BFF Hermana Choque lives. And the festival directors are really into foreign dancers so they would totally set me up and let me in. They really support people from other countries trying to learn about South American culture and they give them priority. By the way, Hermana Choque is a really good dancer. And she invited me to come down here and do some dance camps down here. That would be my dream. Seriously. I would LOVE it. If it doesn’t work out in Bolivia, I’ll just come back to Peru and do something here. That’s what I wanted to do anyway.
Anyway, maybe you guys all think that I’m crazy now, but those are some thoughts. Cool stuff. I really love Latino culture. It took me a while to get used to it, but now I can’t even imagine having served anywhere else. I think that the positive qualities that the Latinos have, have really been a great complement to my weaknesses, and it’s helped me out a ton. I LOVE SOUTH AMERICA!!
You guys are going to laugh at me so hard when I come back and just listen to reggaeton and Salsa and like Corazon Serrano in my room… and try to be a Latina. Haha it’s ok, no regrets!
Well, I better get off now.
Love you all! Take care!!! Love, Hermana Hollberg
Just so you guys know, it’s getting bleeding hot down here! Seriously! Today, we went and played soccer as a zone down at the beach. And it was so humid. Just like, chokingly, inescapably hot. I remember the first time that I played soccer with Latinos, I thought that I was going to die…. but now I’ve figured a few more things out! I figured out the secret to really playing in a group is to just go for it. I’ve never really played sports or known how to play or anything like that, so it’s not like I’m any good, but I still think that it’s a lot of fun. Hermana Choque and I played in every game today! I even scored a GOAL! I think that the Elders might have let me do it though. My companion is the best and I love her so much. We get along really well. I don’t know if I told you guys but she totally played soccer like a beast back before the mission. I think she almost played professionally. She’s really talented. And also really cool.
So this week, we have had about 4 hours of proselyting time in total. We have had to spend the ENTIRE time holed up in there in the family history center. 11 am until 9 pm. We’ve been training the other companionships. Even though we’ve been walking less than ever, we are MORE TIRED THAN EVER. I have honestly never been more exhausted in my entire mission, believe it or not. When we get home, we just stumble around and fall asleep during our end-of-day prayers. But it’s been awesome. That’s how you know that you’ve been working hard. We’ve basically been visiting the classes every day and trying to pull as many people in there as we’ve been able to. In total, between Tuesday and Saturday, we had 87 visitors and we printed off or sent to the temple 91 names!!! That’s incredible for a first week! It’s been a blast! We feel really great about it and we want those numbers to keep going up. The key is getting everyone really excited. I think that it’s great how we’re focusing on youth and YSA kids at the institute because it helps change the standard definition that we have in our brains that family history is just for grandmas. It’s SO not true!! We’ve seen some really cool and spiritual moments there in the center this week with missionaries as we were training, and one Elder almost cried, the Spirit was so strong when we were teaching him about his ancestors. It just really touches your heart.
It’s been a little hard not getting to proselyte for two weeks in a row. It makes us feel really guilty about having to leave all of these people in our sector. The thing is, we really want to make our visits this week but we know that the center is going to need a lot more help. Also we have a couple of people who want us to come and visit them this week and we have no idea when we’re going to get to work in our sector… ahh!! We have 4 companionships that will be rotating under us, including mi hijita linda Hermana ZUMBA!! That means that we get to see them more. I was sad because I thought that I would never get to be in a zone with her again, but then Heavenly Father had mercy on us and let us be together again!!! Yay!
On one of the days that we were together there, there was a HUGE earthquake! Ok, not like buildings-falling-down huge but still like the biggest one that I’ve felt yet. It started out slow and we all noticed and said, ”whoa..” at the same time, and then there was a huge jolt and all of a sudden, things started shaking pretty strong. It went for a long time. Hermana Choque and I were both a little panicky. We almost ran for the door. But then it started shaking a little less and we just stayed at the computers. We definitely went real white for a little while though. Man, I’m getting scared that the Lord is preparing me for something big that’s going to happen back home with all of these little false-alerts that He’s been sending us. I hope you guys never have to feel an earthquake because it’s not exactly a carnival ride.
But the very best of everything this week was when we got to go to the temple on Wednesday with Diego (a recent convert) and Evelyn (a reactivated member) for their first time doing baptisms for the dead. I swear, getting there and back was the greatest ordeal of my entire life, and I don’t even want to relive it. The adversary sure was fighting hard—he did NOT want us to go, that’s for sure! But in the end we made it in one piece, and everything turned out ok. Diego and Evelyn LOVED it and they told us that it was the most marvelous, spiritual experience yet. Above all, it was especially wonderful because each one of us 4 (including Hermana Choque and I) were able to take the name of a family member. It was such a special day and we were so glad to be there to witness it.
You guys, I have to tell you, going to the temple for your own ancestor will be an experience ten time more incredible that just going for someone else. If you haven’t gone with a name of your own before, you’ve gotta do it!!! Before my mission, I always said, ”everything’s all done,” just like everybody else, but once you start to get the hang of FamilySearch, you realize that there’s sooooo much work to do! And it’s totally addicting!!!!
You guys are all the best. I love you so much and hope that you have a lovely week. Take care!!!!
Love, Hermana Hollberg
(I love you guys!)
Hey guess what I found out? My companion speaks fluent Quechua. I had no idea whatsoever. It was as if it was completely casual or something. Somebody asked her, ”Oh hey, do you speak Quechua?” And she was like, ”Yeah.” That was it. I just about didn’t believe her. And it’s not like she knows a little bit or she just studied it for a few years in school or as a hobby, she literally grew up speaking it just as much as she’s spoken Spanish. She can read the Book of Mormon in Quechua without any problem at all. What the heck?? I can’t believe I didn’t know!!!! That’s so cool! So this whole week I’ve been asking her how to say all sorts of stuff. Quechua is such a strange language because it doesn’t have really any Latin roots at all. Just a few words that the Spanish taught them when they came to the Americas. But the grammar and the pronunciation is really different from anything that I’ve ever known.
(For those of you who don’t know, Quechua is one of the native languages down here that’s spoken between Perù and Bolivia. It is a branch of what the Incas used to speak!)
Well, this week has been a pretty crazy week. Believe it or not, we’ve only had about one days’ worth or proselyting time! We’ve been full blast in plans and all sorts of crazy stuff about opening this center. Getting to direct the very first mission-operated family history center in the area is really cool, but it’s also really really hard because that means that everyone’s eyes are glued right to you. The president has to give a presentation tomorrow about the center and also on the 15th when all of the mission presidents in the area will be going to Colombia for their semi-annual meeting! So we have to scrape up a whole bunch of stuff that he can share there. The days are passing by like wildfire, and every night, after everything possible is said and done, Hermana Choque and I collapse into our beds. I don’t know if I’ve ever been so exhausted on my mission. Whew!
Making the very first decorations. Those trees took a LOT of work!!!! But they are so worth it. Hermana Choque and I made everything together.
So basically, that’s been the entire week. Like really. Let’s see. Monday we went out and visited people. Tuesday morning, we had Mission Council and got to present the center and how it’s opening! It was cool. Then we went up to the area offices and got a training, and also two laptops to work with. Then we flew back down to the institute and started visiting classes with Pia and Carlos Levano, and even though they were still putting in cables and such in the center, we used another room and used the laptops and wifi to do a little preview.
We helped a few students get their accounts set up and the work done. We also started handing out these really neat flyers about the center to all of the students (dang, I forgot to get a picture of them!).
Wednesday was our P-day, and it was one of my favorites of all time! We went to the Parque de las Aguas and we spent literally the entire day as a zone. It was a great bonding day and everyone had a ton of fun.
On Thursday, we didn’t even get to do our weekly planning because at 8 in the morning, we were in the center setting up. They were just finishing putting in the internet cables and power lines while we were decorating and setting up the laptops. Then our friend Dulio came down from the area office and hooked us up with two more computers and a printer. We were there the entire day working out the kinks, finding people to teach and advertising. Friday and Saturday, we spent with the new companionships that President selected to work with us and rotate out ”shifts” every week. So we met with all 4 companionships and went over the rules, the systems, the expectations, our goals, and the schedule. We made a fixed schedule yesterday and sent it out to the companionships so that they can plan out their weeks without any big issues. This week, we’re going to spend the entire time with them to help them with whatever kind of a doubt they might have, and also to monitor the process. Having 2 companionships at a time will also be nice because this week we’re really going to focus on marketing the center too by going out and visiting the biggest classes for a 5 minute introduction to the center. All of the companionships have responded really well. We’ve been focusing on trying to really communicate the importance of this responsibility and how great of an opportunity it is and I think that they’re getting excited about it. The last couple of days have been mainly working out the bugs on the systems, computers, schedules, security, keys, etc., but this week’s focus is going to be on-the-job training experiences for the other companionships and big time advertising. We’ve really gotta get this thing flying before the end of November when school gets out. We’ve had some good success already with youth coming, and we even found some less active people who had come to take an entrance test to BYU, one of which told me that after having found out that she really could do the work for her grandmother who had passed away (after a little preparation from the missionaries who lived in her ward boundaries), she ”finally had a desire to come back to church and overcome the shame that she had felt for falling inactive for so many years”!! It was amazing! Bullseye! We’re hoping to see many more experiences like that this week. We’ve already have a few elders call and make appointments for visits so we’ll see how they go!
Although, this week has been pretty much centered in the… well, center, we did have one really spiritual experience with an investigator on Sunday and Monday. Her name is Elita and she came to church by herself last Sunday. She was looking for comfort because her 16 year-old daughter passed away 6 months ago from cancer. Monday was her supposed-to-be 17th birthday, so Elita was having a really rough time with it all. On top of that, she had just received from her husband a letter from his lawyer demanding divorce and her family was slowly falling apart. The president of the Elders quorum found her and invited her over to his house to do a family night and to invite us to give a lesson. We met with her and talked on Sunday for an hour, and then went back on Monday to see her again. We were planning on teaching lesson 2 right off of the bat (The Plan of Salvation) but we found out that she had a pretty serious doubt about prayer. She didn’t want to pray for herself because she felt too ashamed by her past mistakes to feel like she could ask anything of God. For those of you out there in the world who may feel like that, please know that only the Adversary wants us to think that! There is no ”worthiness” limit that says that we may or may not pray and ask for help from our Father. He loves even the worst sinner, and wants to help us above all. We are his children. My companion took out a scripture in Enos in the Book of Mormon and we started reading from verse 4. Elita started to weep and asked if we could keep reading, so we continued until verse 12. When we finished, we talked about it a little bit, and then there was a moment of silence. With tears in her eyes, Elita looked up and said, ”Ahora les escucho,” nodding her head. (”I’m listening to you now.” ”You’re right, I’ll listen to you.”). Then we felt impressed to invite her to say a prayer in that moment. She accepted willingly and we knelt on the wood floor. We told her that she could pray out loud, and we closed our eyes and waited her to take the moment and find what she wanted to say. We kept waiting for her to start. And waiting. Five whole minutes passed by as we were knelt together on that hardwood floor. Ten minutes. Fifteen minutes. Not a word. But both Hermana Choque and I felt like we shouldn’t even look up nor do anything to disturb the moment. Twenty minutes passed. Both Choque and I have knee problems and we were starting to really be hurting, but we didn’t do anything to let it show. Even though we were in complete silence, we could feel the Spirit just burning and we knew that it was going to be a really spiritual moment for Elita. We stayed there, kneeling, with our eyes closed. Twenty-five entire minutes went by, and finally Elita’s phone rang. She answered it, and unfortunately had to go to meet up with someone. But standing up, she looked at us with such joy in her eyes and she hugged us for the longest time. She said that she had found her answer. It was such an amazing moment. We felt totally directed by the Spirit. It was one of those moments that makes literally every pressure and bitter part of a mission wholly and completely worth it, times ten. We left feeling really great, with our own testimonies feeling even stronger that Heavenly Father really does love us one by one and he talks to us individually and guides us to the same big answer: Christ. We knew that it wasn’t us directing the lesson, but Heavenly Father.
I hope that you all have a really great week! Thanks for writing me! I love you all!
To Hamilton and also to the twins! ¡Cusi p’unchy kama!
Happy Birthday this week!!! I hope you have a great one!!!
Love, Hermana Hollberg
Festival of Dances, Magdalena Stake 2014
Literally my favorite event of the year
Hey did you guys know that Halloween is totally boycotted down here? It’s like the saddest thing on the face of the planet. Honestly. Of course, as missionaries, we didn’t get to really celebrate but only about 5-10 percent of kids get to actually go out and trick or treat. Maybe less. That’s just my guess. And the whole time, there were mobs of people with signs and horns and posters and handouts with all of this propaganda about how it’s like ”devil worshipping” stuff and how it makes God sad when we celebrate Halloween. Total heartbreaker. Maybe it’s because South America has actual real deal witchcraft, so they’re a little sensitive about the whole holiday. Even some of the members were a little skeptical. A few asked us, ”is it ok to go trick-or-treating and dress up?” I was just like, ”PFFT are you kidding? Back in Utah we have WARD-sponsored Halloween parties. It’s ok guys, you don’t need to repent.” All of the street posts still have posters up though about how it’s evil. I totally snagged one though to keep in my journal for a recuerdo.
Well, I sure have a lot of things that I want to tell you!!
Let me start with some of my favorite stories from this week and the last:
The first is about a recent convert named Nilo. His conversion is a very interesting story. He used to be the equivalent of a President for all of Lima of all of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. He personally founded a good number of the churches here. He was an active member over there for 8 years, until one trial led to another in his life and he became inactive in the J-Dubs. He was going through a really hard time in his life, and he realized that it was because he had fallen away from God, so he said a prayer and told Heavenly Father that he was willing to come back, and then he left his house, looking for some J-Dub ”missionaries”. He saw two women in skirts walking down the street with backpacks and thought, ”Hey! There they are!!!” and he ran up and tapped one of them on the shoulder, looking for help in his ‘reactivation.’ She turned around, and the first thing he saw: NAMETAG. He told us that in his head, he thought, ”Noooooooo…. Mormons!!! Dang it!” In the past, he had literally sought out to argue with the missionaries and he thought that what we taught was bologna. How do you spell that? Anyway but there he found himself face to face with a sister missionary and her companion. He had already tapped her on the back so he felt like, well, it must have been something heaven-sent, so he started talking to them anyway. And guess what? He was baptized ten days later. On top of that, he managed to read the entire Book of Mormon cover to cover before his baptism. Cool, right? And since then, he has managed to convert about 5 of his old Jehovah’s Witnesses friends. Now he’s been excommunicated from their church and they have a rule where if any one of the JWs talk to him, they’ll get excommunicated too. But he is like AMAZING because he already knows the scriptures like the back of his hand, he knows what missionary work is, he knows how to teach and preach and lead, he knows how to serve, and he is NOT afraid to share his testimony. He actually has to beg us sometimes to be able to let him come with us when we go visit people. The whole time that we’re with him, we always get to talk about really cool doctrine and stuff. We’re planning on going with him and a few other recent converts from the ward to the temple to do baptisms on the 13th of November. I really hope everything goes through and we can do it! Keep your fingers crossed. I’m so glad that I’ve gotten to know him and hear his story. People like him are true examples of courage and faith.
Hermana Choque and I are doing really well. She’s a really cool girl. By the way, I meant to tell you guys, her last name means ”Crash.” It’s pretty cool.
Also, I meant to tell you that my ward is part of the Lima district called, ”Cercado” which is basically ”Downtown.” Cool stuff.
So this week, we’ve really been focusing on working out the rules and the details on how this new center is going to work. It’s going to be the very first Mission-run family history center in the whole Northwest South America area! That’s five countries! Isn’t that cool? If everything goes well, they might try to expand the idea. So it’s really important that we work REALLY HARD this month because everyone will be out for summer break for all of December. We’re trying to get it opened by Thursday this week. It’s a bummer because it’ll probably cut down the majority of our proselyting time because we’ll have to be there the whole time when it first opens (Tuesday – Friday, 10 am – 8 30 pm; Saturday 11 am – 4 pm) until we can train a couple other companionships and get them rotating with us in there. But we have to have people there at all times. We’re opening a center so that all of the missionaries can bring their recent converts, investigators and less actives there to be trained, and we’ll have all of the tools. Also, so that all of the youth that are always there for classes can get excited about family history and also missionary work. It’s a huge plan to increase our retention and to help new members strengthen their testimony the most they can in the first year. So we’ll see how that goes! We’ll let y’all know.
I’m just about out of time, but I’d like to write about just one more person that we’ve met this week — a 16 year old youth named Juan José. He’s a member of the San Martin stake, but his mom lives in our sector and we found her by a referral that Nilo gave us. Juan José once went to the temple to do vicarious work for his grandfather, who passed away a little over a year ago. His grandfather was very Catholic and even participated in some of the big marches for El Señor de los Milagros. The night before Juan José was going to go to the temple for him, he had a dream that his grandfather came up to him, and that in his arm, he was carrying something big and white. He pulled it out and gave it to Juan José, and when he opened it up, it was white baptismal clothes. Juan José got really excited and he started to tell his grandfather all about what he was going to do the next day, and about the church and the gospel of Jesus Christ, and his grandfather just smiled and said, ”I know, son.” Juan José woke up crying with joy and when he left the temple that day, he had such a huge testimony about how the gospel is preached in the Spirit World, and how temples are the house of the Lord. What an inspiring story!! We filmed him telling it, and we gave it to Pia and Carlos Levano, and they said that they were going to show it at FSY (EFY) this year!! So incredible.
Well, that’s all for this week. I truly hope that you all have a wonderful 7 days. Everybody behave!! ¡Pòrtense bien! If there’s anything that I can ever do for you, lemme know.
Love you all! Have a great week!
If you don’t see any miracles yet, you gotta create them! Love, Hermana Hollberg
First of all, in this post, I would like to make a dedication to my dear cousin, Steve Evans, who passed away this morning after a long battle with leukemia and graft-versus-host disease. I can proudly say that he was one of the many people who truly encouraged me by their example to become who I am today, and also to serve a mission. I am so proud of him and for everything that he fought here, and I know that even though he had such great challenges and barriers here on earth, he was a shining example of a return missionary who ALWAYS lived up to the person that he became—and He who he represented—during his service. He had the most incredible testimony and was maybe one of the best sunday-school teachers that I have ever had. I love him so much and I love his wife Taryn too, and I will be forever grateful for the impact that they have had in my life. And I know that they have impacted many more lives than just mine. My heart goes out so much to the family, and I pray that even though I am very far away at this time, that we can all feel a little closer right now. I know that that’s what he would have wanted. I love you all so much and I’m so incredibly glad to have the knowedge that we will see him again someday, and that ”For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”
I think that Paul put it very well in 1 Corithians 15:52-57:
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
Our room is s c a r y. Everything is covered in black mold, and there are ants everywhere. We’ve got a lot of work to do. This morning we found a rag stashed behind the toilet and it literally had 5 inch tall mushrooms growing on it. Ay ay ay! It is VERY different from my old sector. But it’s Perú!
Yesterday we were invited to go to the San Martin stake and talk to the missionaries and ward members. This time, the area advisors made us teach for 35 minutes, but it was nice because we already had a bit prepared from what we were going to use the day before. It was still really last minute though.
Things are really busy because this is a really busy sector and we have way more people to visit than in Magdalena! It’s going to be even more of a challenge, balancing our time. But it’ll be fun. I’m excited. We have a lot to do but I love the feeling of accomplishing something.
I have two WAY GOOD stories to tell you guys but I’m going to have to save them for next week. Sorry for the cliff hanger. But they are a couple stories from members that will blow your socks off. Don’t let me forget next week. :)
All of the chaos of Cambios…. 24 new elders came!! That’s a TON! Almost every companionship in the whole mission had a transfer. Now we’re 245 missionaries here in 10 square miles.
Making real lemon bars in honor of Tom’s birthday at the house of our new pensionista Mayra!! A sister who was here a long time ago (I think it was Hermana Bejarano?) got a box of Krusteaz mix and gave it to Mayra, but she couldn’t read the English instructions and so she gave it to us and let us do it!
We had to jump through a few hoops to make it all work, but in the end, they turned out REALLY delicious and everyone loved them!