Monday, August 7, 2017

Week 50 - Lots of Leg, Lots of Lung

Hello friends and family,

Opening an area has been such an adventure! I don’t have any better word to describe it except: adventure. A little more than a week ago, we got off a bus in the middle of a city neither of us had ever been before. We had asked the driver when boarding where to get off, but he didn’t offer any clear direction. So we got off where he said and started wandering in search of the chapel. We were armed with the cell phone of the missionaries who had served here before and the keys to their old apartment. We were lucky some names had been saved in the phone’s contacts so if we got into a real jam and needed it, we could call have called on some friendlies in our new, expansive battlefield. After a short walk, we found the chapel and then lunch before feeling a prompting that we should go back to the church. (I am sure it seemed more than a little unusual to people on the street that 2 young Mormon missionaries were wandering around asking where to find their church.)

Upon returning to the chapel, we saw the gate was now open and walked right in to find Presidente Castaneda inside watching church videos. We were blessed that both he, and we, had listened to our inspired thoughts as he told us that he felt like he just wanted to “have the chapel open for a while” that morning. He was able to really help us a lot, showing us around the town a little, and giving us the names of some people the old missionaries used to visit. This was a huge step in the right direction. And I loved being off on my own, with my companion, with no expectations save it be for the ones we put on ourselves. And now I find myself thriving in this environment. Since then, in just the last few days, my Peruvian companion, Elder Cuevas, and I have come to know this city as if we’ve lived here our entire lives, we’ve found a heaping-handful of people to help and visit, and we’ve even scored a few points with the members of the church living here along the way. I’m really, really happy being here.

Keeping with my opening theme of adventure, I wanted to share with you about some people who are really special, Luis and Soledad. They are relatively new in the church but they are really enthusiastic and helpful. What is incredible about this couple is that they travel more than an hour each way to church on Sunday. And walking back to their house that sits at 3,500M (11,500 feet), high in the mountains, requires lots of leg and lots of lung. I can’t describe it.

The key word here is Cangahua. Google map it. Cangahua is a little pueblito that you would only know if you had been there. We arrived around 3pm in the afternoon and there wasn’t very much activity in the town square. There were a few people going about their daily activities and I couldn’t help thinking to myself as the words whispered from my lips: “wow, now this is an adventure.” We were accompanied by President Castaneda and a brother Jackson Mendoza who immediately started looking for someone with a truck to help us climb upwards even more, even deeper into the mountains. We eventually located one and were off. Cangahua is composed of a little town square with a cute blue chapel and maybe 5x5 squares of cross streets. In other words: it’s small. And it disappeared quickly in the rear view mirror as we continued on. The road we were driving on was wide enough for a car-and-a-half and was hidden in between a vast mountain face on one side and sheer cliff on the other. At this altitude, the lush green Ecuadorian foliage of below is replaced by the short, stubby brown shrubbery of the sierra. And the wind whips hard.

We eventually found the small school house given us as a point of reference in a place called Pitana Alto. From there we started asking around for Luis and Soledad. In this regard, Andes mountain villages and old folk trailer parks back home have something in common: everyone knows everybody and we located Luis and Soledad’s home quickly. The wind ever whipping outside, keeping the shrubbery short and the earth desolate, we gathered around with their family and shared a message about God’s love and concern for each of us. I felt exceptionally important and honored by the level of interest and attention they loaned us, down to the smallest of their children. I imagine they don’t receive many visitors. Human interaction, in this world, is utterly awesome.

The hike and adventure had been worth the effort. We survived the trip. We saw yet another incredibly beautiful part of our planet. And we met an incredible group of people. What more could I want? Maybe a cuy asado (guinea pig BBQ)? No, that’s a joke. Upon departing, Soledad came running out the door to show us the trail that would take us back to the main road where we could catch the bus. “No worries, it’s just 10 minutes downhill” she promised. We walked for an hour but eventually made it. I arrived back home that night feeling incredibly enlightened. And blessed. Blessed to be here. Blessed for the experience.

I guess you could say it’s been an exceptional week. Every night I return home feeling great – better than the day before – because I am learning more about the world, learning more about myself and I am feeling closer and closer to God, as I give my all to His work. Take charge in your life, do what’s right and the find the adventure that exists all around. I promise you will enjoy!

With love,

Elder Ericksen
  • Adam is training a new missionary, Elder Cuevas, from Lima Peru. Elder Cuevas is the third in a family of 4 kids – 1 other brother and 2 sisters. He is “a sincere guy and I’m really thankful for that. I am blessed that he wants to work, wants to be obedient, and wants to be better and I’ve been able to really help him.”
  • I am loving being a trainer and I’ve turned into a missionary machine taking care of everything while Elder Cuevas integrates himself more and more into the mission. I really appreciate this and it’s helping be a way more effective leader and a lot more professional in my interactions. Mission work is hard and tiring and at times not fun and Elder Cuevas is adjusting, just like I had to. My strategy is to keep reminding us both about our callings and the purpose of our work and of course to set for him a great example. I know the mission will impact him soon like it does all of us and I put my faith in that. I am being really compassionate, serving him 24/7, and I know he’s going to be great. This is the part I love most in all of this: I absolutely love being able to help others spiritually and emotionally. (Proud parental note right there - my kid is becoming a man!)

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