Monday, May 18, 2015

Semana 68 in Moyobamba (May 11th, 2015) LAUREN'S LAST LETTER HOME!!!

Well, this is it. The day I thought would never come. My last email home.
This week was full of lasts. We had consejo in Iquitos and it was honestly so good. Just what we needed.  With all the pressures of juggling baptizing, rescuing, and retaining we've kind of lost our focus on the whole bringing others into the fild and finding new people to teach.  Although we must rescue and retain as missionaries our first focus is finding, teaching, and baptizing families. President also gave a training that really impacted me on obedience and repentance.  It started out a many trainings in the mission do talking about complete and exact obedience.  But then I really liked how it ended. It's not just a quiestion of whether or not we're obedient but WHEN we aren't obedient are we truly TRULY repenting and changing and submitting ourselves to the Lord. We as missionaries teach the doctrine of Christ which all begins with faith and repentance.  Sure we can invite people all day to do it, but how powerful is that invtation going to be if we aren't doing it ourselves. That my friends, is what we call latter day hipocrisy.  Practice what you preach. That's what I took away from it and it really gave me a chance to re-evaluate some things and how I am applying the atonement and repentance process even though I may not be committing what's known as ''major sins''.
When I got back from Iquitos, our flight got delayed and we wnded up staying the night in Tarapoto. Which was AWESOME because I got to stay in my very first mission apartment and got to see my old Tarapoto ''moms''--Hna Luzmila and Hna Marisol.
Right when we got back to Moyo I had my LAST EVER work visit and visited Hermana Jackson. It was really great and constructive and it felt good. 
After being away from my area for three days straight I got back to my area and my poor companion who had been trucking away with members. She is the BEST!!!! I love Hna Tituaña.  But I cannot lie to you all, these last three days have been the saddest thing ever.  I have been pretty excited up until this moment but now I just feel like I'm walking in a daze and like someone is suffocating me. Not trying to be dramatic but I didn't think this would be this hard. On saturday we fasted as a zone and when I did my fast I had a little melt down but it was good. I felt sheer gratitude and in my fast I asked the Lord to help me recognize the good and the blessings that have come from my mission. Why does this have to end?
Don't get me wrong I can't wait to see you all but I know this week isn't going to be easy.  2 more days here in Moyo and I'm on my way to Iquitos to have my final interview and farewell. This is so so sad. 
But, I want to say that I am will be eternally grateful for my mission. I have never been shaped and formed and molded so much in such a short amount of time. Anyone who's contemplating, go on a mission. It is the best decision you will ever make.
I can't wait to see you all and I pray for peace and calm as I board that long awaited plane home.

I love you all

Hermana Benyo


 Pres and Hna Gomez took us to lunch after consejo de lideres!  Sister half of the table

My last sunday in Moyo :(

Me and Hna Marisol in Tarapoto!!! After more than a year reunited!!

Me and hermana Hixson at consejo de lideres

Last time flying from consejo

 Zone Moyobamba!!!
My last sunday in Moyo :(

My pensionist and her husband both have Brett Favre jerseys...

 haha apparently no one wanted them in the United states!!!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Semana 67 in Moyobamba (May 4th, 2015)

This week was nuts! We seriously worked our tails off.  I'm pretty sure I just had more lessons with member than I have ever had in my whole mission. It felt so good, it's good to stay busy and working to keep my mind off the prospect of ending my mission in two weeks. This is unreal.
This week the zone leaders helped us move to a new apartment. In our old house we had seen one two many tarantulas and the moldy smell was getting under our sleeves. But we love our new place! It's a lot smaller, but it's on the second floor (no spiders), get's a lot more ventilation than the old house, and there's a lovely view from up here!
Anyway, I don't really have much to say other than this week was just another fulfilling week in paradise.  The branch is growing, we just got a new branch president and I tell ya, he is pretty much future apostle. He is seriously the most spiritual person I have ever met here in Peru and he is really helping break the old bad habits and getting the church to run here the way it's meant to be run. It's something so refreshing after so long in my mission.
Anyway, I feel boring but I really don't have much else to say.  The Lord is helping me keep on working and giving even more than I have, and that is a testament to me that God lives and that his is mindful of me. This week I'm going to Iquitos for the monthly leadership council. That's all for now folks! Oh yeah, see your pretty faces on skypesunday!! I know it makes it a bit anti-climactic the whole me coming home the following week, but I'll take it!

Love you all!!

Hermana Benyo

Talk about forgetting yourself and getting to work--my district leader forgot it was his birthday and no one knew!! So we felt bad and bought him a cake...and smashed an egg on his head as is tradition here in our mission :)

 This is how they rode to our new house. Haha totally acceptable in peru

From inside the new casa

You know I love that view 

I hope you aren't getting sick of the 'me in front of the mountain pictures' they're becoming about as frequent as the 'me in front of the river' photos in Iquitos.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Semana 66 in Moyobamba (April 27th, 2015)

I would like to start this weekly letter with the news that I HAVE PIOJOS.  I let you figure out the translation of that word based on the following context:  I noticed for the last few days that my head was a bit itchier than normal. And on Saturday about 10 minutes before going out to work in the afternoon I had my companion check my head and told me the news that no girl wants to hear: PIOJOS.  So I screamed a little bit but I mean we had an appointment right then so we went and taught the lesson as I was frantically itching my head and after the lesson Telma, our investigator decided to take a look.  So there I sat, as my investigator and my companion sat there rumagging and combing through my hair pulling out 5, 10, 15, 20 gigantic black piojos and I just sat there crying a little bit. It was kind of one of those ''only in Peru'' moments.  Actually fun fact, in Iquitos the people eat piojos!! Words fail to describe the shock the first time I witnessed someone sitting on the street pulling piojos out of their husbands head and putting them in their mouth (No worries, they don't do that in Moyobamba, I asked Hna Telma if she was gonna eat them and she looked at me funny).  It was traumatizing to say the least.  I bought like 5 little envelopes of piojo shampoo and for the last three days during language study my companion has spent over an hour picking out slews of little eggs...I think were up to about 130 on the piojo egg count.  I'd like to finish this story quoting Yzma from Emperor's new groove when I say ''I HATE THE JUNGLE!!!!''.  Someone needs to send me a GIF of that.
Anyway moving on, on monday we challenged the famous MORRO DE CALZADA that towers over Moyobamba. I was pretty excited and it was a good climb. See photos attached.  Actually the climb itself wasn't so bad, it was the descent that hurt me from the fact that I fell like 7 times and my legs were covered in bruises...not much has changed for me as far as the coordination department goes.
I forgot to mention this to you guys but the coolest thing happened.  The other week my companion saw a couple on the street and went to contact them. It was already 9 and we were headed back to the house.  But she stopped and talked to them and they were super cool and told us that they were new here in Moyo, they were from Iquitos and had visited the church there about a year ago. I was like ''Oh no way!'' and they told us that two hermanitas visited them, one a 'gordita' from Ilo, Peru and a north american more or less like me. And that's when I was like ¨HOLD UP¨ I had a gordita companion from Ilo in Iquitos and I am north american and realized that this was MY investigator family from over a year ago in Colinas, Iquitos!! Rubi and Rafael!!! How did I not recognize or remember!!?? So crazy. Being a missionary is nuts, so much divine intervention.  So yeah, long story short got reunited with my old investigator family this week and they are progressing and determined to change.  Unfortunately only their kids came to church this week due to work complications but we have faith that there parents will join us next week.

Anyway, that's all for this week.

 Hermana Benyo 


12.  Zone photo at the top. Please note the blood pouring down Elder Foote's face...he got in a fight with a tree on the way up and decided to leave the blood there for photo's sake. Oh yeah, and he won the fight.
13.  The other day during language study Hermana Tituaña asked me what ''Grande Tiempo Prisa'' means. I told her I have no idea that makes no sense when I realized that she was directly translating the name of her favorite band Big Time Rush. I hope at least one person thinks this is as funny as I do. Who knew Big Time Rush had fans in Ecuador? Or in general, really.

 El Morro de Calzada

 Approaching the Morro

Climbing up

Our jungle mountain paradise

Our jungle mountain paradise

Cliff on the way up

View from the top!!

Us in front of the cross at the top.  All of the missionaries sign it every time we go up.

Zone photo at the top. Please note the blood pouring down Elder Foote's face...he got in a fight with a tree on the way up and decided to leave the blood there for photo's sake. Oh yeah, and he won the fight.

he other day during language study Hermana Tituaña asked me what ''Grande Tiempo Prisa'' means. I told her I have no idea that makes no sense when I realized that she was directly translating the name of her favorite band Big Time Rush. I hope at least one person thinks this is as funny as I do. Who knew Big Time Rush had fans in Ecuador? Or in general, really.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Semana 65 in Moyobamba (April 20th, 2015)

Hey everybody,

SO I really don't have much interesting to say other than that I am tired.  Hermana Tituaña worked our tails off this week, or as the peruvians say 'full chamba''.  Seriously, it was great. And also a little bit depressing, but mostly just fulfilling.
We had interviews with president this week and as always he told me exactly what I needed to hear. He told me not to fret if I don't end up having baptisms here in Moyo but to just keep working and teaching my companion and the other sisters.  So that's really what I'm doing.  He told me that he is 100 percent sure that my transfer here was inspired, and I really feel that too.  So we're gonna keep on keeping on and not get 'trunky' as the missionaries always say.  He told me to just focus ever day on feeling the spirit and working in an inspired way.  
But I feel good. We are seeing small victories, families coming to church, we had a few investigators in church as well. No complaints here.
I feel like I have nothing interesting to say...I spilled my guts in my letter last week so here's a few photos I guess...
Today we're gonna hike the Morro de Calzada...a gigantic mountain that is famous for being a killer climb and has some great views! I'm excited. Pictures to come next week.
Also, super depressed because my memory card got fried and i lost ALL my pictures from my WHOLE mission. I cried a little bit. But at least I've sent home a ton every week.
And oh. my. goodness. Last night as I was reporting our week to my district leader I hear the screams of my companion and go to see whats wrong and I see this MONSTER. LIKE I THOUGHT THE LAST ONE WAS BAD. IT WAS THE SIZE OF MY FACE.  It was so horrible, but my companion is brave and killed it. I hate our house so much because it's right by what they call a ''barranco'' which is like a freaky ravine full of all kinds of scary stuff. But it's all good we're changing houses next week.

Hermana Benyo

 I love my area so much!

We actually don't know where our area ends, this road pretty much goes forever

We actually don't know where our area ends, this road pretty much goes forever

Hermana Tituaña!!

Yes, I do use my bag like a giant fanny pack, Peru is a judgement free zone.

Our Furry Friend

Semana 64 in Moyobamba (April 13th, 2015)

Already a week into the last change of my mission here in paradise. Can't believe it has come to this. It's this strange mix of happiness emotion and fear and wanting to cry. But it mostly just makes me want to throw up a little bit.
This week the zone leaders and I headed to Iquitos for our monthly vacation (haha just kidding President and Hermana Gomez get annoyed when we say that). Consejo de lideres!!!  We drove to Tarapoto and met up with the sisters leaders of Tarapoto, Hermana Child and Hermana Tuckett (one of my best friends!).  It was good to see them and we flew to Iquitos.
Going to Iquitos always feels like coming home. Don't get me wrong I LOVE Moyo, it's paradise it really is, and the work here is inspiring. But Iquitos, that's where my heart is.
Hermana Tuckett and Hermana Child and I hopped in a motokar with our three suitcase piled on the back and we headed off, us hanging on to them so they don't fall which is pretty much how it is as far as motokar transport goes. We were about a mile from the airport when we stopped at a stoplight and we felt someone RIP the suitcase from our grip. We turned around to see a little man running away with the suitcase towards his getaway motorcycle, driven by his accomplice. We screamed feeling kind of helpless seeing him jump on his motorcycle and ride off in the other direction on the sidewalk. Okay, this is where the story gets awesome.  As we were screaming, before we had time to blink, about five or six motorcycles who had witnessed the whole scene, without thinkinbg twice, pulled out of traffic and onto the sidewalk to chase after him,  our choffer had jumped off the motokar and was chasing him on foot!!! And that little coward out of fear dropped the suitcase and rode off. We just sat there watching the whole thing. First we laughed and then I almost just cried of happiness in such a sincere act of goodwill and teamwork to help three foreigners on the part of the people of Iquitos. I can testify that the police don't do anything here, the PEOPLE are who control the crime.  Our choffer came back and apologized profusely and said that people like that are an embarrassmente to Iquitos and Peru. But we were like NO, what everyone else did was a a way bigger statement of what the people of Iquitos, Peru are all about. I was smiling for 15 minutes, I LOVE IQUITOS SO MUCH and feel so heartbroken toward the prospect of having to leave it one day. You have no idea.  Such sweet, sweet people.
Anyway this week was far from ordinary.  And I learned a really powerful lesson as well.  There is a sister that I have had the privilege to serve here in my mission. Let's call her Hermana Garcia. I have been Hermana Garcia's sister leader for about six months...almost her whole mission, first back in Iquitos and for some reason the Lord put us together here in Moyobamba as well, so I've been here on the sidelines pretty much through it all.  This sister has had a very very special and let's just say for lack of a better word miserable mission experience.  I've spent more nights than I can count praying for her, thinking of what I could say or do to help her, work visits, phone calls, and p-day chats just to keep her going. But you know what, after months and months, after trying so long and hard and seeing her still suffering, wanting to go home every minute and really truly miserable, I started to doubt.  It got to the point that I felt that if she REALLY truly is miserable and doesn't want to be here, that she should just go home.  And that's pretty much where we were at.  And she was there too. Contemplating calling it quits and throwing in the towel.  And I had pretty much thrown in the towel too, labeling her ´'unhelpable'.  but then Wednesday when I got to Tarapoto, I met up with Hermana Tuckett. She asked me how Hermana Garcia was (she's never met her) and...well...I told her the truth.  She got really concerned and gave me some ideas of what I could say to her, she said she felt strongly like she could help her. And I won't lie, right there my pride started to talk and I kind of figuratively rolled my eyes and thought ''No you can't help her, you don't understand. She can't be helped. I've tried all that for the last SIX MONTHS. What makes you think you could do it better than me?''   And that's when I kind of heard myself. Do I really have such little faith?  Am I just giving up on her after so long of fighting for her and fighting WITH her?? When we were in Iquitos for consejo I got a moment to pull President aside and discuss the situation. That's when the zone leaders came in with news of a phone call from Hermana Garcia´s district leader saying that Hermana Garcia had received and answer to her prayer and that she would be going home for sure.  Shortly after, when Hermana Tuckett heard the news, she was just like ''Hermana Benyo, I know I'm not from your zone but I feel the spirit very strongly telling me that I could help this sister. Do you feel it too?''  Once more, my pride is what kept me from recognizing the spirit and I kind of just shrugged my shoulders telling myself that she was being presumptuous.  She was offering to help but I didn't accept it so she went right up to President and told him that the spirit was prompting her to say something to help this sister.  It was bold, especially considering that she's from a different zone let alone another city, it was bold and I really didn't do much to back her up and I respect her a lot for her bravery in following the promptings of the spirit. But he gave her permission to call Me and Hermana Garcia and on the off chance that Hermana Garcia did go home...she would have to pass through Tarapoto. Talking to Hermana Tuckett on the plane and the car ride back helped me to see things the way they really are.  Had I been so blind as to have fallen in the same trap that Hermana Garcia had?  To think that there's really no hope and that the only option is quitting?  With permission from president, we got back that night and the zone leaders dropped me off right at Hermana Garcia's house to spend the night with her and talk it through.  And we talked. And talked some more. ''You know your going to regret this forever, right?''  ''Yeah''  She talked and I listened and I talked and she listened and we both started to realize together that quitting was not the solution, it was exactly what Satan wanted. And that's when the prompting came,  In that moment I felt the spirit SO strong that she needed to talk to Hermana Tuckett. That there was something she could say to help her.  The SAME spirit that I had felt and denied earlier that day in the offices. But this time, I humbled myself, and picked up the phone.  I couldnt tell you exactly what Hermana Tuckett said to her, I honestly don't remember and Hermana Tuckett doesn't either, but it was EXACTLY what Hna Garcia needed to hear in that moment.  To keep her going, to know that Satan is trying to destroy her and though it may just be the hardest thing she's ever done, quitting isn't the answer. Right now, she is like a piece of coal being pressed to become a diamond, on all sides with amazing amounts of pressure.  If she gives up now, she'll just go home still a piece of coal. Sure, she received an answer to her prayer that God will love her whether she's diamond or coal, but do you really want to go home a piece of coal?  No. She hung up the phone with a realization and we kept talking until about 11:30.  But she went to bed at peace and determined not ti give up. She's staying. In my prayer that night, I both repented and gave thanks.  I repented for trying to give up on her so easily, for being so blind, for being pridfeful and worst of all for denying the spirit.  And I THANKED the Lord for opening my eyes and hers too--to see things the way they really are. I thanked the Lord for a friend as awesome and spiritually sensitive as Hermana Tuckett and the good that she had done for the both of us. And so from this all I learned this great lesson: NEVER GIVE UP ON ANYONE. No matter who it is, whether it's a fellow missionary, investigator or stranger. Never give up on them, everyone deserves a second chance. An infinite amount of second chances. That is what the atonement of Jesus Christ is all about and who am I to deny anyone of that?  Be that light of hope that they so desperately need. Don't EVER fall in to the same trap of despair thinking that there is nothing you can do to help.  Especially to those you love.  I called President the next day a happy, happy lady with great news and gave all the credit to Hermana Tuckett and the spirit.  I can't wait to see Hermana Garcia finish her mission and the blessings that will certainly come from it. It is SO SO worth it. I am at forever will be eternally grateful for my mission and the priceless experiences that have come along with it.
As far as my life goes, I won't lie this week was HARD.  Hno Jorge...our investigator preparing for baptism moved to Tarapoto and won't be back until June. We're pretty sad about it but that's life in the work of the Lord. He's still SUPER excited and will be baptized when he gets home in June, but everything happens for a reason. His niece Cristal is still going hard coming to church every week and doing her personal progress and we will se what happens with her.  Honestly, being in your last change is HARD, I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.  I am trying to keep going and finish strong and for that my companion and I are fasting. I WILL CONQUER THIS and come out strong.  That's all, the gospel is true and I feel it every day in my life.

''Therefore I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me.
 Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me.''
Micah 7:7-8

I love you all,
Hermana Benyo

1. Us and Hno Jorge before he left for Tarapoto :(
2. Hermana Jackson and I challenging the Escaleras de Satanas for our morning workout, View from the top!
3. Airport in Tarapoto with Hermana Tuckett and Hermana Child
4.  Me and my ex comp Hna Lozano at consejo de lideres!!
5.  At the airport in Iquitos headed back to San Martin!!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Semana 62 in Moyobamba (March 30th, 2015)

This week passed faster than you can say disaster. But it was another good one!
We have a new workout routine to get back in shape. I mentioned to you that Moyobamba is built on a mountain right? Well there's some stairs that lead allllll the way up the mountain and that's our new morning exercise. There's 413 steps and we've come to lovingly know them as 'las escaleras de satanas'. Google translate.
We're happy to announce that Hermana Jorge accepted a baptismal date for the 18th!! Yay! But we've got a LOT of barriers for hurl over before that date sneaks up as far as chastity and word of wisdom go...but he's doing really good. Came to church on sunday super excited with his niece and also his nephew who is like 38.  It was great having them and Kristal his 13 year old niece loves church and wants to do her personal progress and even went out with the young women sunday to visit the less actives in the branch! She is worried about being baptized for what her family will say but she's super cute. Hermano Jorge has his baptismal interview this week and we're hoping that will help him with his progress. So far I can see a HUGE change in him, and he can too--he tells us everyday that he is truly changing and repenting, poco a poco!
We're also teaching a young less active family called Familia Chacon. They are hilarious! I love visiting them and on Sunday the entire family came and Claude (the wife) brought her 16 year old sister Hanni who we've been teaching. Hanni is really great but her mom is not supportive (understatement). But I love these guys, and the dad always calls us ´chambonas´. Not really sure why but it makes me laugh every time.
Can I repeat how awesome our branch is? It fills the requirements already to become a ward so we're going to be seeing some great things here in Moyo!  The members are so so great, it's the best branch council I've ever had, alll the members are involved and take part in caring after the less actives converts and investigators. There's just a really awesome spirit here.
On Sunday we went to Rioja...I don't know if I mentioned but Zone Moyobamba is the only zone in the mission that is split up over like 4 different to get to the other areas you have to drive between 25 minutes to and hour.  Rioja is another little town that has a branch and everyone in the zone went to doa blitz on sunday...which means that every missionary pairs up with a member and we go out and do visits to help them grow their branch their. Rioja is super tiny and cute, we were able to find some people to teach for the elders there, and now I'm best friends with my companion, a member from Rioja, Hna Marizol...she's loca but super funny.
Anyway not much else going on, Hermana Tituaña's doing great. She's flying to Lima today to do her visa papers so I'll be working with members and staying the night with the other sisters.
One thing from my personal study: So something I've discovered in my mission is that I can measure my success as a missionary based on the presence of the spirit in my life. If I feel it abundantly throughout my days, I know that what I'm doing is good. If not, then I've got a lot to improve on, whether it be dilligence or obedience. Well, I think it really applies to life in general. When we feel the spirit abundantly in our lives, we are on the right track in our eternal progression. Even though we may still be committing errors, if we are repenting regularly and doing what we should, we will have the spirit. If we can't feel it, something is wrong and we need to stop doing the things that offend the spirit, however big or small they may be, because in the end these things are only holding us back.  This is one of the spirit's purposes, to help us measure and know if we are on the right track.

Well, that's all I got.

Love you guys!

Hermana Benyo

 We decided to embrace Hermana Tituaña's culture on Sunday so we went to church in traditional clothing from Ecuador!

Doing visits in Rioja

My member companion, Hna Marizol

Me and a peed on me as I was taking this and then I dropped it....It was okay though

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Semana 61 in Moyobamba (March 23rd, 2015)

Just another week in paradise.

This week passed so fast I can barely even remember what happened. On monday, the zone went to the famous caves.  It was pretty fun and I've got some pictures to show for it.
The good news about this week is that our investigators came to church!!!! (Cue hallelujah chorus)
Jorge and Kristal came, He is the dad of Tia Sena (our pensionista) and he is super awesome. He is in the process of quitting drinking and honestly he is doing a great job. He told us yesterday that his friends started calling him ´Pastor´ because he went to church on sunday and won't drink with them.  He's super hilarious and something about him is so...wisconsiny. He reminds me of one of my uncles or something. Kristal is his twelve year old niece who always listens in on the discussions. She is super cute and loved young womens.  We were super happy because Marilu came to church today, the hermana that I mentioned the last week that we knocked her door.  Her husband Omar didn't come because he had to work but we are praying super hard for them so that they can progress. They have some doubts about marriage so we're going to teach them with a really awesome newly wed convert couple in the branch.  My companion was super cute in church yesterday, she told me afterwards 'I have never felt so much love for the person sitting next to me as I did today in church with our investigators'. This girl is gonna LOVE her mission, I told her just wait till we have our first convert together! 
Anyway, that's pretty much it for the week, short and sweet, these weeks are passing like blinks of an eye. 
And Jenna and Jason--SO happy to see the new baby!!!!! And he is guatemalan ahhhhh so sweet I can't wait to meet him!!!!

Love you all,
Hermana Benyo

Hna Josephina and me...Let's keep in mind that I'm 5'3'' and this lady makes me look like a straight up giant
Getting ready to head into the caves

At the mouth of the caves

Mi hija!

Jenna--this one's for you because it looks like a I have a lazy eye

In the cave

El Rio Jordan at the end of it

The River Jordan!

So pretty!

Can't say no to a cow picture!