Monday, December 29, 2008

He Answered Our Prayers

Queridos Familias y Amigos Mios,

It was so great to hear from my family!!!!! I hope you know I was sick when I called so that's maybe why I didn't sound my best. Actually my companion was sick all Christmas day. Pretty much Christmas was just great though!

Thanks for everything!!!
Right now we're getting close to some new baptisms which I'm very excited about. We had 6 investigators come to church again and 3 of our investigators have dates set for January. It shouldn't be very hard if we just keep doing what we're supposed to be doing.

President mildy rebuked us in his Christmas letter and really told us that the lack of baptisms in the month of December (honestly I don't know how they went, but we didn't have any) was because of the small things we need to overcome like obedience with exactness, trusting the Lord, teaching effectively. We can always do better as missionaries every day.

One of the kids we're baptizing is named Cesar Jr. He's ten. His sister is a member and his parents can't be baptized yet because we're helping them get married. We just got a permission slip from him on Saturday and he has more than 6 asistencias
(he's attended Church more than 6 times) so he's set. I was so grateful on Saturday when we taught him. Always when we tried to teach him before he honestly couldn't concentrate, and told his parents he didn't want to be baptized. But then for some reason he completely changed. He sat there, understood, listened, and told us that he was ready to be baptized. YES! Really, the Lord answered our prayers. It´s been hard for me to go through this entire month without helping someone make their first covenant.

The monkey's doing good. A rat bit it's tail while he was sleeping so he has rabies but no worries, our pensions daughter is its mom and she took Andy in right away to get all its vaccs. Haha. It has an official vaccination tag with his name on it and everything.

Today we're playing futbol. Too bad I waste all the Natives. No, just kidding. They're all way good cause it's the thing to do down here. My companion's really awesome. He's quiet and doesn't like to pay for stuff but hey, I'm sure it´s hard to live with a gringo. I'm his first gringo companion so he's holding out really well. When he bears his testimony I can feel the spirit. That's what's most important to me. He has a great conversion story too from a strong Catholic family so that definitely helps out cause I'd say 50% of our investigators are Catholic.

Honestly I don't want to leave this area. Just saying that is probably going to get me sent off somewhere different, but whatever. We find out next Monday our change. There's nothing better than the mission. Thanks for all the love this Christmas, really, from everyone. It felt like home. Man... I really need to write everyone. I think I'm going to wait until I'm out of the jungle because it's so expensive.

(It costs a significant portion of his entire monthly budget just to get one letter out of the jungle. He's mentioned several times how he feels terrible about ignoring everyone. So if you've written him and haven't heard back - that's why. He'll get to you - thanks for the letters and understanding.)

Padre, usted puede enviar sus cartas a mi en espanol, debido a porque estoy fluido en esta idioma. Yo quiero ver como esta su espanol, para que puedo ver quien es major en en el espanol. No se precupe. No voy a rub it in your face. Probalamente usted es major. Gracias padre por todas sus cartas espirituales. Me encantan esas mas que todas. Estoy leyendo del Libro de Mormon en Espanol en voz alta.

Funny - I knew this day would come. I just didn't think it would be this soon. He's basically challenging me to write to him in Spanish so he can see who's Spanish is better - his or mine. I don't think he'll have too much difficulty winning that battle six months from now, but I think I've still got him. He does say (in half English, half Spanish) not to worry - he's not going to rub it in my face. He also says that he's been reading the Book of Mormon out loud.

Your Missionary,

Elder Layton

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Christmas Day Highlight

Elders Layton and Little. Elder Little was a Zone Leader in Puente Piedra.

On Christmas day, missionaries all over the world are busy calling their families. We got to speak with Elder Layton for nearly one hour, although we were disconnected three times...but we got to have a good chat anyway. We asked a lot of questions. I don't remember who asked which questions, so I just show most of them as "family". Here are some of the highlights...

Elder Layton; "It's hard to talk English (He kept slipping back into Spanish throughout the call. He didn't have much of an accent though.). I don't think I've ever been happier. We have a ton of really good families to visit. It's hard because so many people aren't married - it's different from Lima. Most people don't have the papers they need to get married. We have to wait on papers from other areas. Right now we are waiting on papers for a guy who's from Iquitos. So we have to contact the other missionaries and wait.

The mission is probably the hardest thing I've ever done but it's so much fun. I think I'll be in Pucallpa for a long time. My companion's already been here for 4 months - everyone says they will just leave us here for a while. If I'm here in February and March, I'll be here for the rainy season. Everything floods. All the homes are built up on stilts. Every house has a boat and people just use their boats to get around. The missionaries have to use the bridges.

Our apartment is really nice. It's one of the nicest buildings in Pucallpa." Above is a picture of Avenida Saenz Pena, very close to where the Elder's apartment is.

Don: "What's been the hardest part of your mission so far?"

Elder Layton: "Finding the right people to teach. Lots of people will listen, but only a few will follow through with commitments. They'll listen, but they won't always come to Church or read. Also, I miss my family."

Don: "What's been the best part of your mission?"

Elder Layton: "That's hard, but the best part is when we're able to teach someone from the very start and watching them grow, keep commitments and gain Rosalina Pizarro, Liliana and Ibis Alessandra Moron Troncos. Liliana was the best investigator so far."

Elders Zepeda and Layton with Hermana Angelica & Friends While in Puente Piedra

Don: "What are your favorite parts of the culture?"

Elder Layton: "I don't know - everyone has parties all the time...they have lots of fireworks every weekend, like way more than the fourth of July. The parties go really late sometimes. Last weekend they had one from about 11:00 until 2:00. Our apartment has openings for windows with curtains on keeps us up sometimes. Dancing...everyone's really good at dancing."

Don: "Do you ever run into people who don't speak Spanish - who only speak Quechua or Aymara?"

Elder Layton: "Yeah, no one really understands them, they're usually really old people. Lots of times their own families don't even understand them. It's hard to learn - it's not a written language."

Curtis: "That's so cool about your monkey".

Elder Layton: "Yeah, the monkey lives with the pension. He's still a baby. He's so cute. There's a girl - a daughter of the pension - about 23. She makes it clothes and it has it's own little hammock to sleep in. I always play with it when we come to eat. As soon as I get there, it knows me and comes and sits on my arm when I eat. It knows me. The girl reminds me of how Briana would treat the monkey."

Curtis: "Are you going to take it with you when you leave?"

Elder Layton: "No, it will stay here - it will bring joy for some other missionaries."

Family: "Do you think your mission will make their goal of 500 baptisms in December?"
Elder Layton: "No, I don't think we're going to make it. President kind of wrote us a letter - kind of called us to repentance."

Brenda: "Do you like your Mission President? What's he like?"

Elder Layton: "Our Mission President is the best, he's a great guy - the "best ever". He even lets us watch a movie once in a while. The last movie we saw was "Night At the Museum". They show it in Spanish, sometimes with English subtitles."
Briana: "Is the Church the same in Peru as it is here?"

Elder Layton: "Yes. It's the same. Our buildings are a little different, but really nice."

Family: "What's the strangest thing you've seen so far?"

Elder Layton: "Every day there are naked people (Curtis at this point said, "okay, I do NOT want to go to Peru on my mission!!" Briana said, "Gross"). I saw a guy kill like 20 chickens. He held them upside down by the feet and just kind of pulled on their necks until they popped. There are all kinds of weird bugs, parrots all over in the trees, all kinds of weird noises. The people wear a lot of the same clothes we do, but sometimes they just wear loin cloths". A loin cloth is at least better than going completely naked."

Family: "What do you normally do on your p-days?"

Elder Layton: "We plan weird things. We have to be with the zone until about 1:00 or 2:00. We play soccer all the time. Our pension does the laundry. We eat breakfasts and dinners with the pension. We have lunch with members and we get referrals."

Family: "What's your favorite food so far and what's the weirdest things you've eaten?

Elder Layton: "I love a lot of the food but in Ventanilla and Puente Piedra we ate a lot of Arroz con Pollo (chicken and rice). We had it all the time but there's some really good food. We have all kinds of fresh fruit and drinks made from fruit. There's a lady in our ward who let's us get fresh coconuts whenever we want.

We were supposed to have turtle day-before-yesterday, but she wasn't there and so we had fish instead. We've eaten a lot of alligator - it tastes kind of like chicken. We eat a lot of venison - there are a lot of deer in the jungle. The weirdest was pig stomach. It's so gross. Oh, and they always put chicken feet in soup. They're mostly cartilage - nasty."

Don: "What advice would you give Eric, Curtis and maybe Briana as they prepare for their missions?"

Elder Layton: "Study the scriptures."

Don: "That sounds good - anything else?"

Elder Layton: "Yeah, study the scriptures - memorize scriptures. Have good experiences you can share with other people - become good teachers."

Brenda: "Do you play the piano for your ward?"

Elder Layton: "I play all the hymns now. I played in Puente Piedra and Ventanilla, but they don't have a piano here. They have a keyboard, but it's broken. Two nights ago, we went to the Plaza and sang with the choir. It's funny...all the Churches had time to sing or whatever. The Catholic Church took about an hour right before us and just banged and whistled. We sang hymns. Everyone loved it. Most of the Churches just blasted rock music and rap. Christmas is different here. Everyone works."

Brenda: "Is it hot there?"

Elder Layton: "Yeah, it's hot every day. We take cold showers - we don't have hot water. It's really, really cold water."

Don: "What are some of the best things you've learned so far?"

Elder Layton: "Before I didn't really know how to learn. I learn a lot here."
Family: "Is there anything you need?"

Elder Layton: "Not really - I had to leave one of my suitcases in Lima when I came to the jungle - they only allow one suitcase on the plane. I'm going to have to leave a couple of things here when I leave. My suitcase is already overweight.

People send me letters and I really feel bad. I can't write back. It's really expensive here to send letters. We only get about 90 soles per month (Peru currency) and it costs about 10 soles just to send out one letter. Tell everyone that I love them. We have to take mototaxis to church - it's pretty far away. That costs money too."

Brenda: "Grandma and Grandpa told me to tell you that they love you."

Elder Layton: "I love them too. I love all of my family and friends."

Family: We love you, we miss you, we pray for you all the time and are very proud of you.
Elder Layton: "I miss you guys too.

Monday, December 22, 2008


HEYYYYY!!!!! Merry Christmas!!!

So before I forget dad, I live on the street Saenz Pena and my wards name is Saenz Pena tambien (also). I´ll be calling you on the 24th to set up a time to talk on the 25th. I can only talk for 3 minutes on the 24th.

(Saenz Pena Street, Pucallpa, Peru)

Soooo, before I tell about my week I just have to say THANK YOU!!!! I love my family. On the 19th, President came with all our letters and packages. All I know is that I definitely received the most love in my zone.... which isn't something I was proud of. (Sean has a few overzealous uncles and aunts - sorry guys, you know it's true.) Actually it just made me feel bad, but I split everything with my compi. He was excited about that. Oh yeah.... so mom, you'll probably be mad but I opened the plan of salvation thing. (A very cool missionary gift from a good family friend, John Lewandowski) I left the others don't worry I couldn't help it. It's not the same. I should have more patience yeah? Haha.

We don't really have anything special to do on Christmas other than share the gospel, but we do have permission to be out until 10. I loved the packages from my family and my extended family those were the BEST!!! Thanks you guys. Hahaha, in particular the story of Brea eating those hotdogs with her sharp teeth made me laugh. Me gusta.

Also, just to let you know I bought a monkey (try to picture my expression right now - just try). It lives at my pension's house so Elder Hyde has fun with it too. Don´t worry you'd probably freak if you knew how little I bought it for. Almost nothing. We had an extra hour on pday! Don't worry it's not being disobedient either. (Which I interpret to mean that he checked in the "White Bible", "Preach My Gospel", AND the scriptures and he couldn't find any clear directions against a missionary purchasing a pet monkey if said monkey doesn't cost too much and lives with the pension. Curtis, our 10 year old, upon hearing of the missionary monkey, said, "A pet monkey??? That's AWESOME!! I wish he could send it home!! Dad, can I have a pet monkey?)
It hangs out with us at breakfast and dinner and that´s all we see of it but whatever. I named it Andy of course.

We didn't have a baptism this week...... I'm really bummed about that. Really we had an okay week. (Of course he had an okay week even without baptisms - he has a pet monkey.) We got the members to have a fast for the missionary work on Saturday and we had 4 investigators in the Church. So many are waiting for a wedding and want to be baptized but there are barely ever weddings and the government here makes it almost impossible for the people if they don't have the right papers, and money.

I've really found though that working with the less active and recent converts is key. Really. As soon as we started doing that we had new investigators open up. Last night we gave a blessing to a man se llama Agosto. Todo su familia are members. Hopefully his health gets better so we can teach him.. (I think it's great to see him write when he's in a hurry - how he gets his English and Spanish all mixed up together. He said they gave a blessing to a man named Agosto. All of his family are members.)

Since I've been reading in the Book of Mormon in Spanish I've learned a lot since I have to read a lot slower and take my time to translate words I don't know.

Basically the mission is all about making a plan and trusting the Lord. Seriously sometimes I think our lesson went so well, and for sure our investigators will come to Church. But then they don't and I wonder why? Really there are two options. Either they rejected the gospel of Jesus Christ, or I failed. That's why it's so important to follow the Lord. We have to do EVERYTHING we can. Then we pray and hope for the best. I have so much to learn....

Well, today we brought all our mattresses to the Church. We're going to fight on them, and then I think we're watching a movie. President gives us permission to watch one movie as a Zone once every change that is approved by the offices. I think we´re going to watch Narnia 2!!!! YEAH!

Christmas in Pucallpa is about the same. Everyone has little Christmas trees. The houses don't really have lights but everyone's in the same spirit so that's cool. We really just have a normal day on Christmas, but that's good for me. I love it here.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Still Looking for That Christmas Spirit? Watch This!

"If we are to have the very best Christmas ever, we must listen for the sound of sandaled feet. We must reach out for the Carpenter’s hand. With every step we take in His footsteps, we abandon a doubt and gain a truth." (Thomas S. Monson, Ensign Magazine, December, 2008)

Monday, December 15, 2008

We're Here to Help People Have Spiritual Experiences

I spent a day and a night earlier this week with my zone leader Elder Brock because they were doing visits with my companion Elder Paz. I learned a lot. Really about how to teach. We're not here to give the people information. We're not here to tell people how they need to live their lives. We're here to help people have spiritual experiences, and to accept the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. I know Christ lives and that this is his gospel. I'm more sure of that than anything else I know.

This week was great after that really clicked in my mind. Every principle in our lessons I really tried to relate to living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I noticed a huge change in how people responded to how we taught. First of all I felt the spirit. Second of all, I knew that our investigators could feel the spirit. Saturday night we had a lesson to follow up on the commitments of our investigators. Their names are Lois and Teresa, middle aged, and married! We felt the spirit so strong when they said that they had done what we asked them. Read, prayed, pondered. They still didn't know everything for sure, but our testimonies helped.

Yesterday they came to church. We had six investigators at church yesterday which was our goal. All of them are progressing, and all of them can have baptism dates. This week we're going to focus on setting those dates so they can be baptized this month.

Other than that, we're playing dodgeball today with the zone. So far in my mission I've been bitten by a dog, a cat, a parrot, stung by a bee, and had fleas. You would think I was trying to touch em.... yeah, no. They come out of nowhere. Oh yeah... that beetle was pretty dang big... probably an inch and a half?

(This picture was posted last time and a young man in our ward wanted to know how big it was - see the comments from last post.)

Since I've been here in Peru during the Christmas season I've found that it's really the same as anywhere else. Presents... Santa Claus..... Christ. But there's one obvious difference. There were definitely llamas in the first nativity.

He's right you know. Here's the proof.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Lots of Pictures!!!

We received a CD full of pictures a few days ago. It was like getting Christmas three weeks early. Really it was. We had to do some detective work to determine which ones happened where, and who was who, and so on. Hopefully we got most, or all of them right.

Below is a picture of the plane that Elder Layton took to fly from Lima to Pucallpa, his current area.

This one would be of Elders Layton and Paz (current companion) getting a ride in Pucallpa. Everything looks very colorful, don't you think?

That is a very cool taxi system they have there...

We know of problems he had in Ventanilla with the fleas. The jungle is full of crawling, multi-legged things. Many of them are very different than anything he has seen in the States.

At least he's eating good. This was a meal of potatoes and fried monkey brains.

Gotcha, didn't we? As far as we know, there were no monkeys harmed in the preparation of this meal.
These are a few of the pictures we received. I'll be posting others occasionally ,but you can view them now if you want. Most of them are labled. Simply click on the "Mission Pictures" link towards the top of the right sidebar to access them.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Nothing Makes You Happier Than Living the Gospel

This week has been great. We didn't have any baptisms this Saturday but we've set up several more for the month of December! Also we have a golden family that's just waiting to get married. So basically we're waiting for a matrimonio and the dad, Alberto, needs his papers, so we've been communicating with other missionaries to get his papers from Iquitos. The missionary work is so amazing. Really there´s nothing that makes you happier than living the Gospel, being obedient, and serving the Lord.

Pucallpa rocks. I'm glad Curtis thinks it's cool there are monkeys here. Because it IS cool. We have a big river in part of our area and there are a bunch of little boats and canoes all over the place. Also I learned that in February and march everything floods and that´s why all the houses are raised up. A ton of our area will be under water so we have to use bridges, and the people use canoes.

The people here are so tight. Everyone's always like GRINGO!!! So it´s a good conversation starter to begin sharing the gospel. Yeah I did English lessons on Saturday. It was great, cause we had two investigators there, and I hear we might have more this Saturday. It´s perfect because they come with members and then we can set up times to meet with them.

I don´t know how much I told you about Gustavo, but he´s a gringo that lives right above us. He teaches English lessons here in Pucallpa. We've only met with him once because of his tight schedule but after the first lesson he was really set. He wants to prepare for baptism, and he knows he needs to change a lot of things in his life. He told us all about his past life, and decisions that have led him to where he is now. Really though, I know when he accepts the gospel in his life his life will only get better.

Here's some info I found on wikipedia about Pucallpa. It provides a technical snapshot on where Elder Layton is serving.

Pucallpa (Quechua: puka hallpa, "red earth") is a city in eastern Peru located on the banks of the Ucayali River, a major tributary of the Amazon River. It is the capital of the Ucayali region, the Coronel Portillo Province and the Calleria District.

Pucallpa was founded in the 1840s by Franciscan missionaries who settled several families of the Shipibo-Conibo ethnic group. For several decades it remained a small settlement as it was isolated from the rest of the country by the Amazon Rainforest and the Andes mountain range. From the 1880s through the 1920s a railway project to connect Pucallpa with the rest of the country via the Ferrocarril Central Andino was started and dropped several time until it was finally abandoned. Pucallpa's isolation finally ended in 1945 with the completion of a highway to Lima through Tingo Maria. The highway allowed the commercialization of regional products to the rest of the country, thus improving the economic outlook of the region and its capital, Pucallpa. However, the heavy rainfalls of the Amazon Rainforest remain a problem as they erode the highway and can even cut it by causing flash floods.

Pucallpa is served by air through the Captain Rolden International Airport and by river through its port Pucallpillo near the center of the city. During the high water season, the floating ports of La Hoyada and Puerto Italia are used for riverine communications. Pucallpa is connected by road to Lima via the cities Huánuco and Cerro de Pasco.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Liliana's Baptism

This week has been so busy. My mind is racing right now actually because there's so much to say but I can´t really say it all. Yeah the jungle is really great. There are monkey's, which are the coolest things ever by the way, but since we're in Pucallpa they´re only pets.

The first night here our pension made us alligator which is so good....I think I told you that.

(For some reason, I would love to try alligator...maybe it's just the idea of eating something before it eats you, I dont' know. But I'll bet he's right. It's probably very good.)

We're going to go play soccer in a big stadium today. We invited members and investigators to play with us. This Saturday I'm teaching English lessons again like my Puente Piedra days. If they want to come they have to bring an investigator. We already have 3 confirmed investigators coming so that's great to hear!

Like I said this week was too short. We didn't have a good turnout yesterday in the church... so maybe that's why. It seems likes that's always hard for people to commit to hear. The only thing we can do is work harder, study harder, and work more effectively.

We baptized a lady named Liliana on Saturday so that was great. Elder Paz baptized her and she already has tons of family in the church so they were all there and supported her the whole way.

We have about 7 families right now which is kind've low, but really every other family we come across isn't married. We're hopefully going to marry a family on the 13th. They are progressing but still have that barrier. The daughter's a member and they also have a 10 year old son named Cesar. We're going to sacar una fecha proxima visita (set a baptismal date on our next visit).

Yeah, this change has been really good for me as well. My companion's really shy so I get a lot more opportunities to mejor mi idioma (improve my language). He's way cool, Elder Paz. He's obedient, works hard, and has a great testimony.