Sunday, July 27, 2014

Semana 27 in Punchana (July 21st, 2014)

Hello Everyone!! 
It got REALLY cold these last two weeks….apparently this happens here every year  for a couple weeks, what’s known as ‘The San Juan cold’. We were teeth chattering and bundled up in sweaters, when I looked at the thermometer and realized that it was actually 70 degrees. And then the Wisconsin girl in side of me died with shame for the weak wimp I have become. I literally don’t even feel like Iquitos is hot anymore, it’s normal and if I’m exposed to anything below 88 degrees with 100% humidity I shiver. Yeah I’m gonna die my next real winter.
Anyway this week are district leader Elder Valdez got an emergency change to go be zone leader in Tarapoto, and we were pretty sad because we’re in a shared area with them and he helped us a TON with references, encouragement, and our ward.  But now we’re figuring stuff out on our own now I guess. 
We found a really great new family that we’re teaching, named Denis and Shayla. Shayla is a member of the church who hasn’t attended in years, but wants to come back and Denis isn’t a member but is really great and interested and super hilarious too, we genuinely love teaching them and they’re just one of those families that I just love. This week however, they’ve passed through some difficulties, they own a bus here and one of their employees fell out of the bus on his face while working and things aren’t looking good for him.  They’re really stressed and worried about it and were in the hospital Sunday so they weren’t able to come to church, but we’re praying for them and trying to support them the best we can.
On P-day our zone got permission from President to watch 17 Miracles, I love that movie! I think about the mormon pioneers that faced such persecution simply for living what they believed and so many of them that sacrificed their lives to do the will of the Lord. It makes me so proud of our own ancestors and the sacrifices that they made as they were forced out of their homes to  cross the plains, many of them losing loved ones or even their own lives to the cold and starvation, with out a single complaint. And here I am in the 21st century, with pretty comfortable circumstances complaining because our appointments fall through or because I miss American food (no for real, I’ve been craving Chipotle for a solid 6 months). But honestly they inspire me so much, I feel like me being a missionary is a continuation of the Legacy that my pioneer grandparents have left me, and they inspire me to carry on even when I’m tired and hungry, with a smile on my face, even through the rejections, dropped appointments and disappointments.  But it really applies to all of us, let’s wake up a little and as President Uchtdorf said, let’s not sleep during the Restoration! Let’s set aside selfishness and Serve God and your neighbor with our all.

1. Us and the Punchana Ward Council
2. The bridges down by the river in our area
3. Down by the river in Punchana
4. Floating houses in Punchana
5. Freaky abandoned boat across the water

Semana 26 in Punchana (July 14th, 2014)

Hello my dear sweet family and friends!!

This week was full of its own little adventures and challenges, one thing I love about being a missionary. Every day has exactly the same schedule but can be completely different. On Tuesday night it rained a ton (weird, I know) and we got soaking wet and all houses in Iquitos flooded.  We're on the second floor but somehow water manages to get up there too.  For service on wednesday we helped out a house that is lower set and had water up to our knees. We bailed buckets and buckets and buckets out  until it was completely dry. Miracles.
Like I said my companion Hermana Lozano is the best, she's so smart and knows our area and all the people so well even though she has only one more week here in Punchana than I do. Our ward is suffering a bit as far as attendance goes but we're doing our best to help out and our bishop is awesome. Like for real, it was his birthday on Friday and we ran into him that night with one of his counselors visiting less active members....can you say consecrated bishop? 
Wow, so also I had a work visit (interchanges) with my sister training leader (and friend) Hermana Linford. It was super fun and she is the best, for real. Learned a lot and it's always good to learn from other people.  
This week we ran into some challenges with some of our investigators that are preparing for baptism.  It ended with some dropped and postponed baptismal dates and lots of prayers.  But the cool thing I`ve noticed about myself is that when these things happen now, I don't get discouraged like I used to. You just have to move forward, trusting in the Lord with a 24-hour smile and everything will be ok. If I'm really here to help these people, I will be patient with them and help them to meet their goals, not get frustrated when they aren`t up to par with my expectations.  Patience and longsuffering, that's what it takes.
Also can we laugh for a second about how hard it is being a missionary in South America during the world cup? (especially when Germany scores 2 points against Argentina.....)  But we're glad that's over now, it should mean a whole lot less dropped appointments and aimless walking until the end of every game.
This week I listened to a talk by Elder Bednar called ''In the Strength of the Lord''. Before listening to It, I actually had had a specific question in my mind regarding the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  I was testifying in a lesson the other day that  we learn Alma 7 that Jesus suffered and died for not only our sins but also our physical and emotional pains and our temptations. But then I realized that I myself wasnt really sure as to why. Like I get that we cant return to live with God without redemption of our sins, someone had to pay the debt, and so he paid the debt of our sins for us. But that doesn`t explain the second part--theres no scripture that says we can't return to live with God if we have experienced pain and temptation.  But I came to a conclusion that the atonement has three parts. In the talk by Elder Bednar he teaches us that the atonement both cleanses us from sin, and strengthens us to be a little bit better---even when we are already good!  So what I came up with is that  the atonement Jesus Christ comprises of three things:

1. He was resurrected
2. He suffered for our sins
3. He suffered for our temptations and our pains-- both physical and emotional

And he suffered these three things for three different purposes
1. So that we could be one day resurrected
2. So that we can be cleansed of our sins
3. So that we can be strengthened to not sin more/be more like HIM

So what is our responsibility in all of this? Where do we come in?
This is what I came up with, what we need to do:
1. To be resurrected: NOTHING. This one's a freebee for everyone. Every child of God who dies is gonna be resurrected through the mercy of Christ
2. To be cleansed: We've got to repent. He paid the debt, but that doesnt take away our personal responsibility to repent and change our hearts-
3. To be strengthened through temptation and pain: Well, all we really need to do to get help is ask for it! If we sincerely ask him to widen our obviously limited capacities, He will give us the capacity to do so much more than we could have with only sheer grit and self control.

I think we often take for granted or forget this third part. He truly was tempted and felt all of our pains and all we have to do is ask for that help, but ask in the right way. We don't ask to change our circumstances, we ask for increased capacity and strength to be our own agents and change our own circumstances. I know this is something I always KNEW, but now I really understand and am applying in my life. Gee whiz I love the gospel. Im a nerd. bye.

Hermana Benyo

I guess it was something I always knew but never really UNDERSTOOD until now. Like that has happened to me so many times. I realized that he suffered

1. Bella Vista
2. All of our appointments fell through during the world cup final yesterday but on the bright side we did find this monkey

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Semana 25 in Punchana (July 7th, 2014)

Heyo family!

This week in Punchana.
Not gonna lie this week was pretty LONG. But really rewarding.  
Hermana Lozano and I are both new here in the area, when I got here she only had been here in the ward one week so we're basically lost and learning together. But she seriously is so awesome and our style of working and teaching is so similar that we just clicked together instantly as if we had been companions before. I tell ya, Mexicans are the COOLEST.
Our area isn't all that big though, so that has made it a bit easier to learn the way.  Also something I realized is that here in Punchana the people are different than in Las Colinas, we may be in the same city but it's for sure a different way of life.  I was commenting to my companion the other week that there in Colinas we rarely ever face rejection. Literally everyone received us, and even if they didn't progress as investigators, they pretty much always listened, none of that door slamming in face anger that people usually associate with missionary work. I think here in Punchana the people are still a lot friendlier than other parts of the world but it's definitely different than what I was used to. It makes for a day a bit more tiring and a lot more walking, but in this strange way I kind of like it. I feel like with every harsh ''SOY CATOLICO!!!!!!!!!!!!''  I get just a little bit stronger, and just walk away with a smile, it's like every rejection is an extra blessing for me. hahah.
So as far as investigators go, right now we're basically teaching purely single women, but we're working and finding families :) But the one's we've got are pretty great!  We have three investigators who are working towards baptism for this month, two of which are in the area of the zone leaders called Bella Vista. Bella Vista is a whole another world. It's like 4 minutes away from Punchana but a very very different standard of living. But it's really cool. Bella Vista is an interesting area because it covers purely river bank and like 70% of the area is inaccessible except by boat for a good chunk of the year here in Iquitos. Like I said all the houses on the river are wooden built in stilts or floating platforms and the people get around on little wood plank bridges until the river goes down again. Most of the houses are built like 20 feet off the ground and when the river swells the water goes right up to the top. So we're teaching two women (the elders cant teach single women, so we get to :) in Bella vista, but right now the river is low so no worries there.  They're names are Elba and Sarahi. Elba has a son who is a member and just left to serve a mission in Brazil. She is really great and loves her son so much. She struggled a little bit accepting a specific date to be baptized, because she wants to wait for her son to get back, but we talked to her and explained to her that if she gets baptized now, she and her son can go to the temple together when he gets home from his mission. She was still reluctant and we invited her to pray with us and ask Heavenly Father if he wanted her to get baptized now or wait for Mateo to get home. We prayed together and she got choked up with tears and asked God what she should do. She told us that right there she had gotten her answer and that she was ready. we're working with her and she is preparing to be baptized on the 26th of this month.  We are also teaching a girl named Sarahi, who lives just a few houses down from Elba, and she is really great. She just turned 18 and was really interested learning about repentance and how to become cleansed and changed through the atonement of Jesus Christ. She has made a lot of changes in her life and turned away from some not so great habits, but we are so proud of her and how she has applied repentance in her live, she really is so prepared, and working toward the 19th of this month.  Our third investigator preparing for baptism is Ana. She lives in our area in Punchana and is a 19 year old single mom. She's really smart and I know she's going to be a really solid, faithful member of the church. We love her a lot!
So yeah that's the low down on our work right now and we really want to get this area up and running, get some families to teach, and help lift up the ward because it's kind of suffering right now. Iquitos is kind of the city of inactive members of the church. You would be shocked to know how many inactive members we find just through street contacting.  
But yeah so that's my life right now, one thing that I've noticed lately is that my mission has helped me so much to learn how to help other people.  I feel so lucky every day to get to help people that are truly suffering and just listen. Sometimes that's all anyone really needs, and it helps me forget all my silly problems. There are so many single mothers here or women who have been abandoned or mistreated by their partner that just need someone to listen to them. Someone to tell them that they are loved, that they are so much stronger than they know. I don't know what it is about being a missionary that like 80% when you get talking with someone they end up in tears, but I love it so much because it is a chance to really teach to the needs of these people. When they are suffering to teach them that Heavenly Father is there, He has a great plan of happiness for them and that these trials and sufferings are only but a second, a trial of their faith and their loyalty.  Like we can totally just a lesson and teach a but about the restoration but when you really get them talking, usually the tears come out and that's when the spirit really leads us to share with these people what they need to hear, the strength to get them through disease, death of a loved one, or problems in a relationship.  Changing lives, that's what the gospel is all about people!!!!!!   I am so thankful for how my Heavenly Father has changed me. Before my mission I was never one to give advice....ESPECIALLY when theyre crying but i've learned so much and I owe it all to the spirit. Sometimes I am amazed with the words that come out of my mouth when I tell these women that they are so much stronger than they think they are and promise blessings to them that I know did not come from me. I know I end every letter this way but man....BEING A MISSIONARY IS THE COOLEST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Love you,
Hermana Benyo
 A family Hermana Lozano and I helped bring to church on sunday :)

Normally I attach a cool photo of what we did on P-day, but as I mentioned last week Pday got changed so that we stay in our areas, which basically means that we just sit in our house all day and not much as far as the cool photos go, so here's a really cool photo of what I did on P-day!!!

Semana 24 in Punchana (June 30th, 2014)

Sooooo much has happened this week since I last talked to you. We had zone conference on wednesday and it was really good, President Gomez is changing a lot of rules to help our mission be more obedient and focused. I think it's a good thing, but now for p-day we can't leave our areas (we normally go do fun stuff with our zone and the other 3 zones in Iquitos). It might be a little boring but it'll help us be more focused I think.  
So then Wednesday night at 9:30 the assistants called and told me that there's emergency changes and I got reassigned to the zone Punchana.  It was kind of a shock and really fast, not going to lie I was pretty sad leaving Las Colinas and the zone there in 9 de Octubre, but I know that everything happens for a reason.  My new area is called Punchana and it's definitely different, but I'm sure I'll get accustomed. It's much more city, none of the muddy dirt roads and wooden houses that I've come to know and love, with tons of motokars whizzing by and the people are a little more hardened than I'm used to, but I know that I am here where the Lord wants me to be. My new companion is Hermana Lozano, she is AWESOME and Mexican, which is basically my dream (love Mexicans, they are the coolest). She's super awesome are really hard working so we're gonna get right to work together.
Something interesting happened this week in the midst of the crazyness.  On Tuesday, when I was still in 9 de Octubre, we celebrated San Juan and there were tons of festivities in the streets. While Hermana Centeno and I were walking a woman greeted us in the street. At first we thought she was a member because she acted as if she knew who we were. Honestly that actually happens kind of a lot, people in the street greet us and we're kind of just like 'uhhh who are you?' but I had a feeling to go talk to her. We asked her if she was a member, she said no and that she had never talked to missionaries before, but she was so oddly friendly we asked her where she lived and she said Punchana. I was a little bummed because Punchana is like 25 minutes in motokar from my area in 9 de Octubre, but I took down her address so that we could pass the reference to the missionaries in Punchana. So then the next day I got an emergency change to Punchana, and the sencond day I remembered about that contact! I asked our district leader if the street was in our area and turns out it was! We went to look for the house and it looked like the street ended at the river bank and the number we were looking for didnt exist. But we kept walking and found this continuation of the street where the houses are built out on stilts on the river and they lived there in the little wooden floating houses.  We finally found the house and when we got there they were so friendly and said that theyhad been waiting for us and we're worried because Monday theyre going to travel up the river.  They accepted baptism and came to church the next day. Like for real, that doesn't really EVER happen when we teach contacts, and It was so cool to me, there's been so many times in my mission that I feel like the Lord has been leading me. Unfortunately this golden family travels up the river months at a time and only will be here a week or so and then leaves again, but we gave them a book of Mormon and I know that this experience happened for a reason. Man, being a missionary is the coolest!

Love Hermana Benyo

1. Zone conference in 9 de Octubre
2. Hermana Centeno and I