Mother's Day and Christmas. Those are the 2 highlights every year for every missionary family. Sean called from Peru at 5:00 P.M. tonight and we were able to speak with him for about one hour. It seemed more like 10 minutes. Here are some of the highlights.
Mom - Why did you get an emergency change from Iquitos?
Elder Layton - I got dengue 4 weeks into Iquitos. I was in the hospital for 4 days -I was really sick, had a fever and was throwing up. I won't be going back to the jungle. Sister Perez (Mission President's wife) feels pretty strongly about that kind of stuff. It's all right though. It's all the same work. That's all that matters, it doesn't matter where. (Mom kind of speechless at this point. Dengue is a potentially fatal disease spread by mosquitoes.)
Mom - The explosion - was it a bomb or a propane tank that blew up?
Elder Layton - It was like a bomb, but it was a propane tank.
Mom - Do you like your new area?
Elder Layton - Yes, I love it.
Mom - You have a little bit of a Spanish accent.
Elder Layton - Do I?
Mom - Are you doing really well with the language?
Elder Layton - Yes, they compliment me on my language. Everyone understands me now.
Elder Layton - The mission's great. I'm doing really well. Me and my companion came here together, we didn't really know anybody. We didn't have any investigators. We've found several now. Today we sacamos una fecha (set a date or appointment) with one young man and he's going to get baptized on the 30th. Lot's of others are progressing.
Dad - You're pretty close to the mission home now, right?
Elder Layton - Yeah, we're really close. About the jungle, everyone says "you're not coming back", but that's not what my mission's all about (referring to the fact that it is pretty unlikely that he will be heading back into the jungle as a missionary).
Mom - Was Iquitos the same or different than Pucallpa?
Elder Layton - Iquitos is like Pucallpa.
Mom - Do you like your companion?
Elder Layton - Yeah, he's awesome. We call him Jackie Chan. He's a good teacher, always gets up on time.
Mom - What's your apartment like?
Elder Layton - Our apartment is great. There's only 2 things. We have a cement floor and there's no hot water. In the jungle that doesn't matter, but in Lima, it's cold in the mornings. There is no hot or cold water. There's only water. You have to buy it.
Dad - What's the culture like there? I mean, what is the food like, what are the people like...
Elder Layton - In Puente this lady told us we were eating seal, but it was dolphin. It's illegal to fish for dolphin - that's why she told us we were eating seal.
Mom - Are you having a hard time speaking English?
Elder Layton - Yes
Mom - Did you really eat slugs?
Elder Layton - Yes, I didn't really like them - it took me almost an hour to eat 6 of them. They were pretty gross. I chewed on them a lot.
Dad - How do you think you've changed the most?
Elder Layton - Like right now, I really miss you guys. In college I didn't really care (laugh). I miss you guys a lot. It's not like I think about it a lot. I just feel different.
Curtis (Sean's 9 year old brother) - What has been the best experience on your mission?
Elder Layton - Your voice has changed. When we married 6 couples, baptized 1 and set dates with the others...in Pucallpa. Everyone wants to get married but it costs money - it's part of repentance so when we help them get married , it helps them progress. If we find families with those desires, we just teach them like normal.
Curtis - What is your favorite food?
Elder Layton French Fries - they're just fried potatoes in grease. They bring me closer to home. We eat rice every day. It's what people have.
Curtis - What have you learned on your mission?
Elder Layton - (Laugh) Tons of things. Mostly about the attributes of Jesus Christ. You can't be a good missionary and not live all of them. I try to live them all, but I don't live always. You have to have patience, charity, be obedient and diligent. All those attributes I've learned.
Curtis - Are you fluent in Spanish?
Elder Layton - Yes. I want to learn more languages when I get back. Maybe do an exchange program when I get back for 6 months. I'd like to learn Italian and go see my cousins in Italy.
Elder Layton (someone told him that Eric was getting pretty tall - maybe it was Eric) - I was looking at a picture of our family. He didn't look as tall as me. You're taller than me now?
Eric - Yes
Elder Layton - I have to beat you up when I get back then. Are you getting straight A's?
Eric - Yes, I got straight A's last quarter.
Elder Layton - What about this quarter?
Eric - Yeah, I think I'm getting straight A's this quarter too. I'm trying.
Elder Layton - Don't talk about it, be about it. That's the thing. Always do your very best in whatever you're doing.
Eric - What's the funniest thing that's happened to you?
Elder Layton - Well, it's probably not appropriate but one time there was a drunk guy walking naked down the street. Lots of funny things...I don't know. One time we were teaching a lesson and a monkey jumped on my arm.
Dad - Are you able to use your music very much?
Elder Layton - "Yeah, I played piano today for Church. They were happy. They don't usually get an Elder who plays."
Mom - Does it seem like you've been out for nearly one year?
Elder Layton - Time isn't the same. You just work really hard.
Elder Layton - (responding to another question about the food) Rice...they do it. I'll do it. For breakfast we just usually have this really hard bread - like rocks. That and Hace (pronounced ah-say) Tuna. We had this tamale and it had this really hot olive in the middle. They put olives in the middle of things. They hide them there.
Elder Layton - There's dogs everywhere. A lot of them have diseases and stuff. The cats here have personalities. If you scratch a cats head, they'll go crazy. Nobody pets them here.
Dad - What advice would you give Eric, Curtis and Briana as they prepare to serve missions?
Elder Layton - Honestly I should have done better. I knew the scriptures but not as well as I should have. You guys should be kind to your parents, be obedient, be grateful for what you have. People here have a really hard time. I want to help them out a lot of times, but I can't. My pension in Iquitos and her husband really ran the ward. The Bishop went inactive, the ward started late...it was supposed to start at 8:00 but we never started until 9:00. A lot of things they say aren't really right or they start late. You do your best. Lima's a little more how it's supposed to be. You have to have a lot of patience though. You want to just take over but you can't do that. You have to help them on the side. You should learn to love the scriptures. I've learned you don't need to read an entire book every time you sit down to read. But read every day. Pray morning and night.
Elder Layton - The family we stayed with in Iquitos (the Pension)...he didn't have a job. He was always doing paperwork and was at home. He just couldn't find anything. Lots of men just leave their families for 6-12 months at a time and go somewhere where they can find work. He wouldn't do that. He didn't want to leave them alone. Sometimes he would just say, "Elders, we don't have food to give to you today.
Elder Layton to Briana - I'm working really hard and trying to be a good example to you guys.
Dad - Gabe West got called on a 2 year temple mission today. He'll be working in the Portland, Oregon temple with his parents." (Gabe is a good friend of Sean's - 20 years old - confined to a wheelchair. He has spina bifida.)
Elder Layton - That's so great. I'm going to write him a letter tomorrow.
Mom - Is there anything you need?
Elder Layton - No, not really. We can buy pretty much anything we need here. Well, maybe some kind of anti-bacterial or anti-fungal spray. I have some mold or bacteria or something growing on me." (Mom semi-speechless again) I'm going to be in Lima forever. That's good though. There's some really cool things about being in Lima. Like now, I get to go to the temple every month. When I was here before, I couldn't go. I was sick then too. I was sick a lot at the beginning of my mission. I'm healthy now (except for the mold).
Dad - As you look forward to the second half of your mission, what would you like to accomplish that you haven't in the first half?
Elder Layton - Yeah, I want to memorize one scripture every day. I did it for awhile, but stopped. I started again yesterday. Really there's nothing new. I just want to continue to progress and do better in everything.
(At this point, he gave us a part of his first lesson in Spanish. He speaks it pretty well and fast. He said that they challenge people to baptism early, and let them set their own dates. They use their own agency.)
Dad - What are some of your favorite scriptures?
Elder Layton - I love the D&C and the Book of Mormon, especially where Christ appears to the Nephites. I love D&C 121.
Elder Layton - The hardest thing is to get people to come to Church.
Mom - How are the kids? Are the kids neat?
Elder Layton - Yeah
Mom - Do you ever play in primary anymore (early in his mission he played the piano in primary)?
Elder Layton - No
Mom - Is there any more bad stuff that you haven't told us?
Elder Layton - Like mold growing on your skin? No. I talk to hundreds of people every day. A lot of them shout "Gringo!" It's funny. I'm the only white person here. Everyone just stares at me like I'm some kind of freak.
We all had some personal moments, expressions of love were shared, feelings of appreciation and thanks were offered. He then said this to the kids primarily but to all of us.
Elder Layton - Work really, really hard in everything. If you're going to do something, do it all the way. Don't do it halfway.