Although our blog is usually full of interesting adventures of the weird and and wonderful we mainly include them to entertain you. So that you don’t think that we are on an extended holiday we thought that we might tell you what our normal week looks like.
Monday to Friday: We wake up about 6 am (because the traffic is so loud that we couldn’t sleep longer even if we wanted to). We leave the apartment around 7:45 amto walk the ten minutes to the South America Northwest Area Office of the Church. As we do so we walk past our local hairdresser (next door), one the many little “tiendas” or shops (tiny little places with an amazing amount of stuff crammed into it from Sprite bottles, to toilet paper, to fruit, to bread and milk, to dead chickens), our favourite chicken burger shop called Don Whiches, the dry cleaners, and the saddest looking labrador behind a gate. We also walk past our local chapel/stake centre where we meet each Sunday and Lesley does her music lessons during the week, and then the Missionary Training Centre (the third largest in the world), next door to our building. We go through the front security gate and give the guards (or vigilancias) another lesson in Australian greetings, and head up the stairs to our office.
The Area Office houses the central administration for Church in this Area covering five countries with its 1.5 million members, 34 missions, and six temples. Our office is on the second floor just next to and outside the secure area of the area presidency’s offices. We are also next door to the other medical doctors - Area Medical Advisors, who provide the medical support for all the missionaries in the Area (or rather coordinate the care from local medical providers and provide their expertise regarding this care).
So our day starts at 8 am and finishes at 5 pm, officially, although Craig is on call 24 hours a day. You can often find him on the phone at night and on weekends - what’s new? He gets emails or phone calls from the mission presidents or their wives about young missionaries who are experiencing emotional or mental health difficulties, requesting that he contact them and speak with them. So each morning he makes his calls to the missionaries, answers and sends emails, sends summaries to the mission presidents, follows up with local mental health providers in the countries where the missionaries are, and anything else that crops up. Sometimes he pops next door to the MTC to see a missionary or coordinate with the MTC president.
We should point out that the number of missionaries in the area is about 7,000 at any one time. We see only a very small number of these missionaries. Of those, most need just a little help to deal with the stress of being on a mission, away from home, in a different country and culture, with different food and language, and lots of dirt and dogs. At times they also have a few scary experiences (like being robbed of their phone), let alone trying to cross the road or catch a bus. Without exception they are wonderful young people who have sacrificed their time and means and this time of their life to serve others .
A few of this small number have more significant difficulties, usually depressive or anxiety disorders, which is not unusual in the general population of this age group. With additional help and treatment they often improve to the point that they can resume functioning in the mission field. An even smaller number of those needs to go home for rest, recuperation, treatment, and may return to missionary service at a later date. A smaller number again of these might need to be accompanied home to ensure that they get home safely - which leads Craig on his world adventure to see as many airports as he can in as short a time as possible.
Considering the vast number of missionaries in the Area, we deal with a very small number (just as well because Craig is busy as it is, barely enough time to play tennis at lunch times).
Lesley sits at a desk next to Craig in the same office trying not to drive each other crazy. She is Craig’s sounding board and confidant. She spends time preparing her music lessons, learning Spanish, attending to the mental health of her friends in the office, and goes on excursions to the outside world to get supplies for various events and functions.
Three afternoons a week Lesley teaches music lessons to children in our ward and stake. We leave the office about 3.30 with a suitcase full of books and resources and four keyboards which we set up each afternoon. We cannot leave things in the chapel overnight due to their unique “borrowing” policy, so we make the trek back to the office about 6.30 each night with suitcase and keyboards in tow. Craig does calls or emails whilst Lesley teaches. This is Lesley’s best Spanish practice of the week as she speaks a mixture of Australian, American, and Spanish to her 20 students. The five year olds are quite happy to correct her pronunciation at times.
Friday nights we often go out with the other senior missionaries for a meal somewhere. Craig is often on the phone, especially if he orders club sandwiches (which are wonderful here, even club sandwich tacos) or we are with our friends the Hansens.
Saturday is technically our preparation day. We might go to the supermarket if we are really desperate, or do washing, or take off for an adventure to see something. Or we might just veg at home. We look forward to connecting with kids and grandkids at home (or New York) by Skype - one of the greatest blessings of modern times.
Sundays we go to church for the three hour meeting schedule. Lesley plays the piano for the children in Primary and Craig tries to behave himself. The rest of the day is usually fairly quiet. We write our blog, call our parents, go for a walk, do family history, write in journals, and surprisingly it is actually a day of rest. Sundays at home were not usually quiet. We do miss having the family together for Sunday night dinner.
We did have one adventure though. On Thursday we flew to Trujillo, Peru’s second largest city an hour north of Lima. We had meetings with the two mission presidents there and several of the local mental health providers. We travelled with a local member from Lima who took us to see some ancient temple ruins dating from 200 BC to 600 AD where they performed human sacrifice. The temples and surrounds were an amazing archeological feat. Apparently thewhole civilisation ended due to flooding rains from an El Niño event, which they interpreted as divine displeasure. Maybe they were right. We have included a photo of our interesting group touring the ruins: four Catholic priests and two Mormon missionaries. They were really friendly from Lima. We also spotted a beautiful Peruvian hairless dog. She is a real beauty!
So that’s our normal week, punctuated frequently by things that upset the routine, which is fine because that is why we are here.