Monday, February 6, 2017

Week 78 I Found Myself February 6, 2017

Well friends and family, this is it! 18 months, 10 companions, and 5 areas. Ending my mission makes me want to cry but my tear ducts must be clogged or something because to my utter surprise it still hasn't happened yet...

My mission is something that I will hold close to my heart. This has been the best time of my entire life. In December of 2015 Elder Carlos Godoy of the 70 paid the Peru Piura Mission a visit. During that time I was still a new missionary, in my training, and struggling with all of the adjustments. Well, Elder Godoy called me in for an interview that day. We talked, and in conclusion he asked me if there was anything he could do for me in my mission. I thought, "What do I ask a general authority to do for me?" I said the first thing that came to mind, I asked him for his number one advice. I remember his eyes dropped for a split second and then met mine, "Find yourself," he said. So time went on and months passed by. I found myself going through one of the hardest times of my mission. A zone leader, looking to help, gave me one of his talks to read. In that talk, these words jumped off the page and slapped me in the face: "Do you see that only in losing yourself, may you find yourself; only by enriching others, may you be enriched; only by giving, may you receive: only in surrendering, may you become free?" My mind immediately flashed back to that interview with Elder Godoy and those words "find yourself" rang loud in my ears.
Hermana Ingram find yourself!

Mark 8:35 says, "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it"

I've truly found myself. I've realized that only as I look outside of myself, getting lost in the service of others, will I reach my potential. Only spreading sunshine into others lives will I feel that same sunshine in my own life. I know who I am now. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.

"Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life. "

I love this mission. I love these people. I love la Piura Vida.
I know that this is Christ's church upon the earth and that it was restored in its completeness by a prophet of God, Joseph Smith. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and that as we strive to study it each and every day the spirit fills our lives and we become better, stronger, more faithful sons and daughters of God. I know that Christ lives, His Atonement is real. I know that repentance is not just an event but a process and that it is truly a blessing. I know that each prayer offered is a prayer heard. I know that as we learn to align our will with that of God's our lives will turn out to be something we could have never imagined. I feel so content and happy with my mission, it has blessed my life in ways without number.

And so, for the last time,
Con mucho amor,
Hermana Ingram


(I'll send pics when I'm home. I'm out of time)

Monday, January 30, 2017

Week 77 I Found My Friends! January 30, 2017

There are no coincidences. I have heard those words leave my mission president's mouth many, many times. There are no coincidences. Missionaries and members alike, believers in a Father in Heaven who loves us, believe that there truly are no coincidences and that we are part of a greater, grander plan. I once read it like this:
Albert pointed at the coffee table between them. "You see that table?"
Michael nodded.
"It is comprised of billions upon billions of tiny atoms, is it not?"
"So what is it that sits between us-- countless tiny atoms or a table?"
"Well, both, I suppose."
"But those atoms only have meaning to us in this moment because they are in relation to each other in such a way as to form a table."
"Michael thought about it. "I suppose that's right, yes."
"It is the same with us. As we sit here, it is easy to see and experience ourselves as individual atoms of the table, as it were. But if that's all we see, and fail to see the extent to which we exist in relation to one another, we miss the grand picture-- the picture I believe the Lord sees as he looks at us."

Tony Hernandez had his first experience with drugs as a 12 year old when fellow classmates brought some to school. He, thinking there would be no harm in trying, quickly became addicted. It was only a matter of time before it overcame his life. As a 14-year-old drug addict he did whatever it took to feed his gnawing addiction. Time and time again he ran from his parent's home and onto the streets to find what his body craved. His parents, distressed and running out of options, chained him inside the house to prevent any further escapes. The following time he ran away was for two months. His mom walked the streets of Lima during those two months asking anyone, everyone, if they had seen her son. When they found him he was drugged, half-naked, and dirty. They spent the next few months taking him to an institute or rehab-type facility. When he continued running away they came to the conclusion that there was nothing more they could do, they would let their son make his own decisions so they could focus more time and energy on their three other children. They then moved to Talara in January of 2016. Tony went to school and felt he needed to change but didn't know exactly how. Celeste, a 16-year-old member, invited him to church on a Sunday in August. The invitation was declined but as they walked home together they ran into the missionaries. I still remember our first visit with him. Hermana Martinez and I knocked on that 2nd floor door and asked for Tony. July, an unfamiliar face at the time, cracked the door open just enough to peek and eye out. We taught Tony in the stairwell to his house the first few visits and then in member's homes. Tony was baptized on the 5th of November. His life, his behavior, his future did a complete about-face. He was changed. His younger brothers saw his example and followed not long after. On Friday his parents, July and Jesus, were able to fulfill their longtime dream and get married. I loved July's response to me after the ceremony, "Hermana! I can repent now!" On Saturday we had one of my favorite, and most hilarious, baptisms of my entire mission.
The happy couple
Tony helping his mom into the font
July decided to be baptized first and upon entering the water one could plainly see the pure terror in her eyes. Toni, being inexperienced, wasn't exactly sure how to help his fearful mother submerge herself. She tried several times without success and began hyperventilating like she was having labor contractions or something. Jesus came in to cheer her on but then felt it'd be best if he went first. Rather than the conventional backward-dunk-baptism he thought he'd go for something a little more original and try face-first. The first try proved unsuccessful. The second time Tony, with more determination, shoved his dad to the font floor for a good 10-15 seconds. Jesus arms started flailing around while Tony was confusing baptizing for drowning (common mistake). When the witness told Tony, "Ok, that's enough!" His dad emerged for air with a glare in his eyes at his son but was able to get over it quickly and asked us to take his picture. Then, with the best of intentions, tried to make his wife feel better by saying, "Love, it's easy, look!" He then stood on the font steps and dove/belly-flopped into the font, water splashing everywhere. I was using everything in me to be reverent and not laugh--we totally lost it. At this point half of the audience came to the back to see what all of the commotion was about and I kept looking at my companion thinking, "Did that really just happen??" Well, long story short, they were both baptized and the next day confirmed members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In July's blessing she was promised with divine help in meeting the goal of getting her family sealed in the temple together forever. It was such a bittersweet ending to a 6 month ride. There's almost a solemn feeling that accompanies the knowledge that my work with this family here as a full-time missionary is done. 
And they're baptized! (Tony dunked himself too?)
With each baptism of the members of the Hernandez family I have felt a sense of relief. I have felt that I, along with my 3 amazing companions, was to see through to the baptisms of this family. In a talk by Neal A. Maxwell he taught that "We made premortal covenants about particular assignments, callings and missions we would fulfill here on earth." Although the decision to serve a mission was not an easy one, it always felt right. I had always known that it was something I needed to do. And although at times overwhelming, the events that have unfolded throughout the course of my mission have brought reassuring feelings. I know there are no coincidences. I know I wasn't called to the Peru, Piura mission by chance. I know I was assigned each of my 10 companions and sent to each of my 5 areas for a reason. Many of those reasons were discovered looking back and connecting the dots. This is the Lord's work and we are a part of something much greater. I know we are sent here to find our friends. I cannot tell you the amount of times I have met people with a preexisting sense of familiarity that almost feels like a memory, a deja vu of sorts. I came to Talara to meet my friends July, Jesus, Tony, Manuel, Antonio, and Stephanie, maybe not so much so that I could bless their lives but have my life be blessed by theirs. I love them so much. I've been so blessed to see the power behind the Gospel of Jesus Christ. "..But as they teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they will witness amazing miracles. They will have front row seats to see how the gospel heals broken souls and brings families together. And through it all, they will become stronger, more capable, more patient, more kind, more humble, and more loving." -Hermana Rasmussen

These experiences have changed me and they have changed my life. I can't imagine going through this journey we call life without having experienced the amazing miracles I've seen throughout the past 18 months. I feel like baptizing the Hernandez family was my unfinished business that impeded me from moving closer to the approaching light. Now that it is finished I can feel a little more at peace with the fact that my mission is ending in less than a week. But like Elder Wilde has said, "You can't stop playing the last 5 minutes of the 4th quarter!" So, time to go hard I guess!

Con mucho amor,
Hermana Ingram
Wedding preparations: All hands on deck!
Peeling potatoes with the bride
Elder Wilde was so excited to cook, he even brought his own apron...they put him on pea duty.
Elder Elizalde cutting carrots!
Hair and makeup!! (we were sweating buckets it was a million degrees)
La Familia Hernandez, how happy!
I totally didn't mean to match the wedding decor...oops 
Los padrinos (:
Right after all of the lights went out in Talara temporarily. (It was just in time as they were about to make me give the godmother speech, I was terrified because I thought I might accidentally bare my testimony and close in the name of Jesus Christ might have been just a little bit inappropriate) 
Oh Happy Day!!!
Morning pollo runs
Carne in the market! Delicious right? 
Doing laundry because our laundry lady doesn't have water
Crazy cute little Peruvian toddler! 
Yes, I held a live squid today! And yes, it inked just like on Finding Nemo
Beach Day! (I found some gringos and in case you were wondering, I've lost all social skills in English...)
My date with maracuya and carambola 
Mission scenery
In Mancora!
Backyard pool party!
This is so Peruvian I had to snap a pic...
Glorious San Pedro (the Elder's area)

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Week 76 3rd to Last Email January 23, 2017

Copa Piura!!! We didn't win but we had a blast!
 Hola Amigos!

This week has been one of the most stressful yet! Sister missionary now turned Peruvian wedding planner and just take my word for it when I say that It Is Not An Easy Job. Maybe in any other ward or branch the relief society or elders quorum might take over and help in getting a wedding going for some soon-to-be-converts... unfortunately we don't have that kind of luxury here...
Visits with my favorite family! Jesus, July y familia!
My emotions are currently all over the place! I am so extremely excited to see July and Jesus get married and baptized and at the same time extremely disappointed in the leaders of the branch. I have found myself repeating a statement made by Elder Holland in my head. "Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we." I guess I'm just trying to take everything one step at a time, keeping my eyes focused on my goal, and learning an extreme amount of patience and compassion all the while. You know, we really have no idea what someone may be going through, or why someone may choose to act a certain way. I myself am one of those imperfect people that God has to work with, yet he extends mercy and with patience asks me to keep trying. I've realized that mercy will only be extended to me, so long as I extend mercy to those around me.
This nice little bug joined me during scripture study
I testify of Christ's love for each and every one of us. He is our Savior and Redeemer and although we deserve nothing, he gave us everything.
Isaiah 53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

Stay tuned!

Con mucho amor,
Hermana Ingram

Points from the week:
-My companion started singing Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love you" in our room, I turned around and realized she was singing it to our picture of Jesus on the wall... well... I think the Evangelicals down the street are really starting to rub off on her.. It happens.
-*Dog laying in the street* "Is it dead?" "I don't know, poke it with a stick." I'd say about 35% of the time they are dead... #Peru
-I just can't seem to walk anywhere without stepping in soggy trash and dog poop
-Hermana Signs asked to use Luisaac's bathroom. Much to her surprise she found a cat giving birth behind the sink... We spent the next 20 minutes or so cheering it on #Peru
-The power has started going out very frequently in all of Talara! It's a little disorienting to watch an entire city go black in only a second!
Mom (Hermana Susanna) went out of town so we made turkey sandwiches every single day and everyone made fun of us...
A little down time while waiting for the hermanas. The mosquitos ate us alive!!
The gringos Elder Obrien and Tuckett from my group, Elder Wilde from Talara!
Inside a house.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Week 75 4th to Last Email!! January 16, 2017

My comp wanted to pose with the tree...
What a week!

On Tuesday President came to Talara to do interviews. My interview was awesome! I don't think he nor his wonderful wife will ever completely understand how much they have blessed my life. During that interview I scheduled baptismal interviews for July and Jesus later that same night. (I was pretty nervous Jesus might need a second interview if he were to go to our district leader). So there I was, sweat beads resting on my forehead, while Jesus and July were being interviewed. They both passed with flying colors!!! The next nerve wracking dilemma was getting their wedding reserved for a day before I leave. Fun fact: The adversary runs marriage requirements and processes here so that every single couple in the country has to break one of the most important commandments. (no one is married) What a butt head... But in the end we win anyway!
My dear July!
The next day July helped Susanna bring lunches to the multizone. When I walked in the kitchen to say hi to them they both looked at me with sad expressions and said, "Hermana ya no hay fecha.." (There aren't any more dates--to reserve for their wedding) "The next closest one is the 15th of February." My heart sank... "but hermana you could fly back for it!" I kind of half smiled and said "ya!" but in my head I was thinking... well shoot I really was not planning on coming back here that quick..... I think they could see the true sadness in my face when they threw their hands up in the air and said, "MENTIRA!" (just kidding!") "We got it reserved for the 27th!!" When my mind finally registered what they were saying the immediate jump from contrasting emotions threw me off a little and I just started bawling right then and there! I never cry! Tears fell from my cheeks and I squeezed July so hard. The four of us started jumping around doing happy dances while the elders were like, "Hermanas where is our lunch..." "Patience Elders we are a little busy right now!"
I feel so blessed!!
Zona Talara
The multizone was amazing. President shared his inspiring stories from his mission and they never get old. At the end they called me up to give my final testimony. My heart started to pound as the full realization that, yes this time truly has come, hit me. I stood up there and bore the most sincere, heartfelt testimony of the Lord's work and our Savior that I could muster. When I closed I began to walk off the stand and my legs felt like lead. I drug one in front of the other until I took my seat by my companion who gave me a reassuring smile and said, "That was amazing." I looked at her and said, "I'm sad" and then felt yet again the speed of passing time. I love this work.
Las Hermanas!
I testify that this is the Lord's work! I feel like I am but a piece to his giant masterpiece of a puzzle. But it's a privilege to be a part of it.

I love and miss you all so much
Hermana Ingram

Quick points from the week:
6 hours in a combi today!!
-Today we drove all the way up to Tumbes to play in part 1 of the long anticipated Copa Piura! We won back to back against Puyango and Tumbes! Next week we are off to Piura to take home the trophy. To this day Peruvians are still absolutely amazed that I know how to kick a soccer ball.
La Copa Piura!!!
-Dinner with the Padrino (godfather) was awkward... Luckily I got to teach him a little bit of the gospel and share with him the Hernandez's story. By the end we were stuffed!! Hermana Signs is such a good third wheel (;
Oh my gosh!...This is so embarrassing! EL PADRINO! Godparents together...(I had to tell him he couldn't touch me for the picture.)
-my comp puked again this week... her poor stomach is against Peruvian food
-Hermana Rasmussen's friends Dawn and Bev came and visited again from California. I felt like I was watching an episode of The Real Housewives of Piura. Elder Meier and I were getting a kick out of it. They are so fun.
-Susanna tried making brownies this week. They were a disaster! Hermana Signs had to intervene just as she was about to dump MORE OIL into the mix. What is with Peruvians and oil??
Yes...this is a picture of the missionaries who are leaving :( All of which have gone home except me
Mas fotos!
Mom got sick so the house was a mess and dad cooked the food...I'm sure you can imagine how that went (;
We have fans! They were so amazed by our skin, hair, and English... 
We kicked butt!!
Aloe plants are everywhere...for the sunburns??
A sunset and some shack houses